MP says MRSA is still huge problem

By Rebecca SheppardAN MP claimed last night that the hospital superbug MRSA was still a “massive problem” in Suffolk's hospitals despite the Government insisting the rising tide of cases had been stemmed.

By Rebecca Sheppard

AN MP claimed last night that the hospital superbug MRSA was still a “massive problem” in Suffolk's hospitals despite the Government insisting the rising tide of cases had been stemmed.

Health Protection Agency figures issued yesterday showed the number of MRSA bloodstream infections stabilised between April and September last year.

But a comparison with the same period in 2003 showed every hospital trust in the region, except Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, had experienced a rise in serious MRSA cases.

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The figures also revealed that two hospital trusts in the region were ranked among the worst in the country over the period April-September last year.

James Paget Healthcare Trust in Gorleston was ranked second from the bottom out of the country's general acute NHS trusts, with an MRSA bloodstream infection rate of 0.32 per 1,000 bed days.

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Addenbrooke's Trust in Cambridge was fourth from the bottom on the national list of “specialist” trusts with an infection rate of 0.36 per 1,000 bed days.

Richard Spring, West Suffolk MP, said: “This is dreadful and the measurement of the statistics leaves something to be desired. It is very, very worrying and people write to me all the time about it.

“There are many countries in Europe that have no bugs at all and ours have just grown and grown. It is still a massive problem - even if it has stabilised, it is still at a high level.”

The six-monthly trust figures from April 2001 are the result of a mandatory methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) surveillance system.

The Department of Health said they reflected the burden of serious infections associated with MRSA bacteraemia - which are reported after detection in a blood sample - and not all MRSA infections.

According to figures, the number of MRSA bloodstream infections at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, rose from 59 in October 2003 to March 2004, to 62 in April to September 2004.

The number of cases at James Paget Hospital, Gorleston, rose from 18 to 28 over the same period, but stayed the same at 23 at West Suffolk Hospital, Bury St Edmunds, and fell from 31 to 23 at Ipswich Hospital.

Gwen Collins, director of nursing at Ipswich Hospitals Trust, said: “We are very pleased with the falling rate of MRSA at our hospital, but recognise that we still have a way to go. This achievement is down to the dedication of staff.”

A spokesman for West Suffolk Hospitals Trust said its latest data for September to December 2004 showed there had been only eight cases of the bug.

“We are pleased to see in the most recent quarter's figures a reduction in the number of cases of MRSA and we are sure increased training, hygiene procedures and general vigilance is playing a big part in that,” he added.

“However, the fight goes on and we do not relax. We continue to bring in new measures to make people even more aware of maintaining hygiene levels.”

A spokeswoman for Addenbrooke's Trust said: “Infection control is something that we take very seriously at Addenbrooke's and everyone - staff, patients, visitors - has been working hard to help fight infection.

“We are pleased to say that our latest figures show that there has been no significant increase in the number of MRSA infections in the bloodstream, and we are managing to stabilise the rate of MRSA infection.”

Dr Tony Hegarty, director of infection control at James Paget Healthcare Trust, said: “The trust was doing very well to reduce the number of MRSA bacteraemias until last summer when the numbers started to rise again.

“However, we recognised there was a problem and started looking in depth at every case. Having put in place measures to prevent a further rise, we have seen a dramatic fall in the numbers reported which is a trend in the right direction.”

Nationally, the figures showed that from April to September last year 3,519 NHS patients in England were infected with MRSA, compared with 3,940 in the previous six months and 3,598 in the same period of 2001.

The Government also announced a new rapid swab technique to step up the fight against the antibiotic-resistant bug, which will identify patients coming into hospitals with MRSA within two hours rather than several days.

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