Government makes MRSA pledge

THE Government is to produce a code of practice in a bid to stamp out hospital-acquired infections in the wake of baby Luke Day's death, it has emerged.

THE Government is to produce a code of practice in a bid to stamp out hospital-acquired infections in the wake of baby Luke Day's death, it has emerged.

Luke was thought to be the youngest victim of killer superbug MRSA when he died aged just 36 hours in Ipswich Hospital on February 3 last year.

A subsequent in-depth hospital inquiry concluded that MRSA may not have caused his death, although it acknowledged the presence of the bug.

In the wake of the tragedy the EADT launched a petition calling on the Government to do more to crackdown on the rising tide of MRSA cases.

That petition, which attracted more than 3,000 signatures from our readers, was sent to the Government - and now we received a response.

In a three-page letter, Minister for State Andy Burnham MP pledged that the Government is doing all it can to reduce such infections through a variety of measures.

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He wrote: “Luke Day's death was of course a terrible tragedy and I would like to send my deepest sympathies to the family.

“I can only imagine what the family have been through and I can understand why they and all your readers who signed the petition need to be assured that we are doing all we can to prevent such tragedies in the future.

“Unfortunately, not all healthcare associated infections (HCAIs) are preventable. However, I would like to assure your readers that we are committed to tackling HCAIs and preventing avoidable infections.

“This aim is supported by a wide-ranging programme, including a target to halve MRSA bloodstream infections by April 2008.”

Mr Burnham continued: “To support the Health Bill which is currently going through Parliament, a statutory code of practice on the prevention of healthcare associated infection is being produced.

“This will drive up standards of hygiene and infection control and will require NHS bodies to provide and maintain a clean environment.

“Specific provisions include a lead manager for cleaning and the production of a publicly available cleaning plan. It will also include a duty to provide information on HCAIs to patients and the public.”

Mr Burnham added that the Government has also launched a national drive to ensure hand hygiene standards in hospitals, meaning staff must “decontaminate their hands as soon as they are soiled and before they touch any patient regardless of whether or not they leave a ward.”

While routine screening of patients for MRSA and other HCAIs is not yet compulsory, selective screening of high-risk patients is in place.

The Department of Health is also working with the “most challenged trusts” to reduce infection rates, and it has issued national standards of cleanliness guidelines and a manual in a bid to ensure high cleaning standards in hospitals.

Responding to the news last night, Luke's paternal grandmother Julie Fenton, who lives in Woodbridge, said: “It's a really positive step. We've got to work together, both hospitals and the public, and to have someone in charge of cleaning is a good idea.

“I think everyone remembers those women in the white coats who went round and checked cleanliness in hospitals, and it would be good to get back to that - cleanliness is one of the most important things in hospitals.

“It's not just hospitals though - I see products in the shops now which advertise that they will kill MRSA bugs and that heartens me.

“We've all got to play our part and I don't think people think twice anymore about saying to someone if they see them not cleaning their hands in hospitals.”

Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer said: “MRSA has been affecting a lot of my constituents. This was a particular tragic situation but there are quite a number of people from my constituency who have contracted it and this is a very serious issue.

“The big problem is it doesn't seem to me that a statutory code of practice is any better than a voluntary code if they are not enforced.

“When there is a new chairman of Ipswich Hospital Trust I will want to see that person right from the beginning in order to make this an absolute priority.”

Jan Rowsell, a spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital, added: “The tragic death of baby Luke affected every one of us at the hospital and we promised to do everything we could, both to find out what happened and to make sure it never happens again.

“We have reduced the number of people with bloodstream infections of MRSA significantly, and we are determined to reach the national standard, which is to reduce the rate of MRSA infections by 60%.

“We also have individual action plans to tackle other Healthcare Associated Infections.”

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