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October to December 2008 Press Archive


BBC News

Branson issues NHS infection call
Tuesday, 23 December 2008
By Adam Brimelow
BBC News health correspondent

Sir Richard Branson has accused politicians of “tinkering” with infection control in hospitals.

The recently appointed vice-president of the Patients Association wants all hospital staff to be screened for MRSA, and treated immediately if infected.

He says any disruption caused would be better than the pain, misery and deaths caused by avoidable infections.

However, NHS experts argued they had made significant progress in tackling the problem.

And Professor Mark Enright, an MRSA expert, said the policy could make sense, but would be expensive to implement.

Sir Richard has also called for managers who fail to enforce patient safety standards to be sacked.

Across the UK MRSA rates are falling, but Sir Richard wants to see a much tougher line.

He said: “There have been some improvements, but the facts speak for themselves - and the facts are still horrific.

“It feels like they have tinkered with the problem rather than really got to the heart of the problem. The hospitals are there to cure people. They are not there to kill people.”

In the UK, as in other developed countries, it is estimated that one in 10 patients admitted to hospitals will suffer harm as a result of something going wrong.

Learning from industry

Sir Richard says the health service could learn a lot from the airline and rail industries on how to avoid mistakes.

“In the airline industry if we had that kind of track record we would have been grounded years ago,” he said.

“In the airline industry if there is an adverse event that information is sent out to every airline in the world.

“And every airline makes absolutely certain that that adverse event doesn’t happen twice.”

Working with the Patients’ Association, Sir Richard is organising an international conference in the new year to examine what works best in infection control and patient safety. He will make recommendations to the government.

But he is already convinced that all hospital staff, including surgeons, nurses and cleaners, should be screened and treated if they are found to be carrying MRSA.

He said: “You don’t necessarily have to ask them to leave the hospital while they are being treated.
“They can just not have any contact with patients for those two weeks while their treatment is taking place, and then they can come back and have contact with patients.

“That is far better than having people dying from unnecessary diseases, and all the misery and pain that that causes, and the cost to the NHS which is enormous.”

Mixed response

Derek Butler, chairman of the campaign group MRSA Action UK, agreed that a tougher line was needed.

He also called for restrictions on the number of people visiting patients in hospital.

“Fighting health care infections has to be an all or nothing affair. There can be no halfway house.”

But Professor Enright, from London’s Imperial College, said the policy would prove to be expensive.

He said: “It could be successful, but it would be very costly because you would have to employ extra staff.

“There is no slack in the NHS to do this. If you did a cost-benefit analysis there are possibly better ways of spending the money.”

A spokesman for The British Medical Association warned that running an airline was not the same as running a health service.

He said: “This proposal will cost a great deal of money and risk further reductions in the number of health professionals available to treat patients at a time when we are critically short of staff and beds.”

Nigel Edwards, of the NHS Confederation, which represents over 95% of NHS organisations, said: “The NHS has made huge progress in reducing MRSA by 50% and C. diff rates are going down.

HAVE YOUR SAY The proposals put forward by Richard Branson are sensible and necessary Anders Roberts, UK

“We are not convinced that screening all staff is a proportionate response to bringing rates down further.”
A spokesman for the Department of Health in England said: “The government is taking tough actions in the fight against infections.

“These include stringent hand-washing across the NHS, doubling the number of matrons and giving them greater powers to enforce cleanliness standards, and screening admitted patients for MRSA.

“These are clearly making an impact as we have halved MRSA infections since 2003/04 and C. difficile infections are down 35% on the same quarter last year.”

Sir Richard also called for more information for patients on infection rates, and a tougher policy on managers at failing trusts.

He said: “The patient should have the right to know the track record not only of the hospitals, but the rate on wards, on departments, on surgeons, on clinicians.

“That shouldn’t be something which is hidden.

“And I also think if managers of hospitals are not obeying the rules that have been set by the NHS, those managers should be replaced.”


MRSA focus ‘helping other infections’

Tuesday, 16 Dec 2008 00:01

The govt’s infection control strategy helps hospitals tackle the problem
The government needs to adopt a more “systematic” approach towards healthcare-associated infections, the head of pressure group MRSA Action has said.

Derek Butler’s comments to came after it was suggested at a Lancet conference on infections that the government’s concentration on MRSA has actually had a negative impact on total infection numbers.

Medical microbiologist Michael Millar told the conference MRSA bloodstream infections make up just two per cent of all healthcare-associated infections and warned that E. coli rates almost compensate for MRSA.

“All you’ve done is replaced one problem with another one. There’s no evidence that overall we have fewer hospital infections or fewer people are dying,” the BBC quoted him as saying.

Mr Butler of MRSA Action confirmed the concerns. Former health secretary John Reid set a target in 2004 to achieve a 50 per cent cut in MRSA rates by 2008.

The Department of Health achieved this once the target date was extended by three months but at a cost, Mr Butler believes.

“The concentration on MRSA was good at the time, to focus people’s attention,” he said.

“However if we focus on MRSA and C. diff alone we will take our eye off the ball on other infections.”

The MRSA Action chairman called for the immediate introduction of screening for all those entering hospitals, better enforcement of existing hygiene techniques and a “more systematic approach” to the problem generally.

“They’re introducing a lot of initiatives, like the deep clean, which are never followed up. They never ascertained what impact it had,” he added.

“Infection prevention and control has to be on all or nothing affair. There can be no halfway house. They either go all the way or not bother.”

Mr Butler warned the focus on MRSA may be failing in any case. He accused some hospitals of having “lost control” of MRSA and predicted the overall number of cases would not reduce significantly this quarter.

The Department of Health said action to address any infections was a “challenge locally” which could be addressed through the government’s infection control strategy.

“C. diff and MRSA bloodstream infections have potentially very severe consequences for patients and both significantly affect patient confidence in the NHS,” a spokesperson said.

“We don’t currently have plans to set targets for other infections as it would be impossible to set a target for each and every infection.

“The NHS is tackling healthcare-associated infections with a wide range of measures including the implementation of MRSA screening, which will help to reduce infection rates.”

c - 2008


Hospital trusts ‘failing battle against MRSA’

Dec 16 2008 by Helen Rae, Evening Chronicle
NEW figures show health trusts are failing to meet superbug hygiene standards.
Statistics from the Health Protection Agency, analysed by the pressure group MRSA Action UK, show no NHS Trust in the region achieved a 50% reduction in MRSA bacteraemias, as set by the Department of Health in 2004.
Based on those findings a new survey by PatientPak, manufacturer of hospital hygiene products, said more than 40% of people in the region worry if they were admitted to hospital they would be at risk of a superbug.
A third of those polled said they felt their NHS Trust could do more to make hospitals cleaner.
Jonathan Sayeed, chairman of PatientPak, said: “We know the NHS is leading the fight to clean up our hospital wards and progress is being made.
“However, I am reassured that individuals are looking to take personal charge to ensuring their own wellbeing and the wellbeing of those around them.”
A spokesman from the North East Strategic Health Authority said: “Our most recent figures to the end of November show that we have made great progress in reducing the number of MRSA infections across the North East.
Preventing all avoidable infections is a high priority for us all. Our work to prevent infection includes expanding screening programmes, improving equipment and the hospital environment, emphasising the importance of hand hygiene, improving antibiotic prescribing and sharing learning about what works best.
“In addition, around 350 matrons are now employed across the North East to help reduce infections and training is being provided for residential and care home staff to emphasis the role they can play in reducing infections in the community.” Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust director of infection prevention and control, Dr Bryan Marshall, added: “These figures relate to a three-year period which ended March 31, 2008.
“Since this time, we’ve made great progress in reducing the number of MRSA bloodstream infections and the number of cases we’ve had across our nine hospitals has recently fallen dramatically.
“Back in 2005/06, when the target first came into effect, we had 59 hospital acquired MRSA bloodstream infections for the year.
“In the first eight months of this year, we’ve had just seven cases.
“Although we didn’t achieve the 50% reduction within the timescale, we’ve achieved this now.
“A massive amount of work has gone into combating hospital infection, however, it can take a little while for the measures we put in place to embed into the organisation.”


MRSA targets may boost other bugs

Emma Wilkinson
Health reporter, BBC News
Monday, 15 December 2008
Government targets to cut MRSA rates may have led to increases in other hospital infections, a UK expert warns.

The vast majority of healthcare-associated infections are not covered by targets, Dr Michael Millar told an infectious diseases meeting in London.
And intense focus on MRSA and C. difficile means other deadly bugs such as E. Coli are getting in under the radar, he said.
The Department of Health said it had taken steps to tackle all infections.
Dr Millar, a medical microbiologist at Barts and the London NHS Trust, said MRSA bloodstream infections account for only 2% of all healthcare-associated infections.
Narrow targets to reduce bloodstream MRSA rates push hospitals away from tackling other infections and even other types of MRSA infection, he added.
For example, bloodstream infection caused by antibiotic-resistant E. coli bacteria cause deaths in more than 20% of cases.
Local problems
“It’s not clear that overall things have got better,” he said.
“Rates of E. coli are going up and it almost compensates for MRSA.
“All you’ve done is replaced one problem with another one,” he said
He told delegates at The Lancet Infectious Diseases conference on healthcare-associated infections that targets should be set on the basis of local problems and measure patient outcomes rather than rates of one infection.
“There’s no evidence that overall we have fewer hospital infections or fewer people are dying,” he added.
Professor Hugh Pennington, emeritus professor of bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen, said there were good reasons for introducing MRSA targets at the time but a broader approach was now needed.
“It’s a fair point - it happened with the C. difficile outbreaks, where it was found the hospitals were paying a lot of attention to MRSA but not enough to C. difficile which was more serious.
“We need to be a bit more mature about how we look at the overall problem.”
He added that he had no doubt other infections were rising because attention had been diverted away from them.
“Generally what we’re seeing is the tip of the iceberg - we need to get better statistics so we can see what the trends are.”
In a recent “State of Healthcare” report, the Healthcare Commission warned that trusts need to have measures in place to combat all healthcare-associated infections.
Severe consequences
A Department of Health said spokesperson said C. difficile and MRSA bloodstream infections have potentially very severe consequences for patients and both significantly affect patient confidence in the NHS.
“We are clear that the NHS needs to take action to address any infections that are a challenge locally.
“We don’t currently have plans to set targets for other infections as it would be impossible to set a target for each and every infection.”
According to Health Protection Agency figures, E. coli is the most common bloodstream infection with 22,000 cases reported in 2007 but rates have remained stable in recent years.
“It is worth remembering that not all healthcare-associated infections are preventable,” a spokesman said.
“But we shouldn’t be complacent around tackling all infections that are preventable and engaging in the battle to continually drive down rates.”


Dentists skipping washes between patients

HELEN PUTTICK, Health Correspondent December 15 2008
Almost three-quarters of dentists failed to wash their hands between patients during a study of hygiene practice at the Glasgow Dental Hospital and School.
The research found clinical staff who supervise students were the worst offenders for breaching basic hand hygiene procedures, seen as crucial for preventing the spread of infections such as the superbug MRSA.
Of the supervising dentists, 72% did not decontaminate their hands after giving treatment, along with 53% of the dental nurses and 40% of the students.
However, when asked, 55% of the staff claimed they always cleaned their hands between patients. Not having enough time was cited as the main obstacle to complying with the rules.
The findings will further damage the reputation of the school, which has previously been warned over problems with sterilising equipment, culminating in a warning in 2006 that it may lose its right to award degrees.
Dr Andrew Smith, senior lecturer and consultant microbiologist at Glasgow Dental School, said there was a greater risk of spreading infections between patients when staff did not comply with cleanliness standards.
He said: “It is frustrating, particularly in a teaching institute when you have got people who are learning. The interesting thing from our survey is the students are doing pretty well and I think they are being let down by qualified members of staff.”
The researchers, who describe their work in a letter to the Journal of Hospital Infection, said nine out of 10 of those observed did wear gloves throughout procedures. However, standards stipulate hands should still be washed between patients.
Dr Smith added that the issue was widespread in the NHS. “This is not just specific to the dental school. Trying to get people to wash their hands is a problem throughout all branches of health care.”
Derek Butler, chairman of campaign group MRSA Action UK, said the findings were worrying.
He said: “Most people have a fear of dentists and I think this will just add to that fear, if they know dentists are not washing their hands. Dentists should have a sign up in their practice which says it is OK to ask them to wash their hands.”
Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: “Good hand hygiene is vital for all NHS staff which is why our hand hygiene campaign is aimed at all staff. We will launch a harder-hitting campaign, with new materials, early next year.
“Dental staff register for the Cleanliness Champions programme which promotes excellence in infection control measures, including hand hygiene. To date, over 385 dental nurses have registered for the programme and 126 have completed it. Thirty-five dentists have registered, with four completions, and 14 hygienists have registered with 8 completions.
“Dental practices received materials, including posters and leaflets, as part of the last hand hygiene campaign and will receive a selection of the new materials when the campaign begins next year.”
Inspectors from the General Dental Council reported in 2003 that they were “acutely alarmed” at the difficulties in providing sterile equipment at the school. It put Glasgow University, which operates the school, on notice that it may lose its right to award degrees unless the situation was improved.


Analysis: MRSA Action UK

Bugging the government
Wednesday, 10, Dec 2008 12:46
Like many other lobby groups, MRSA Action UK finds itself galvanised into action by this year’s Queen’s Speech.
The health reform bill plans to introduce an NHS constitution enshrining the rights and responsibilities of both the provider and the user.
It requires more from patients in return for more. The problem, according to
MRSA Action UK, is the government is not giving nearly enough.
As its chairman Derek Butler explained to, you might expect to see the Department of Health (DoH) making a clear commitment to tackling healthcare infections.
Instead the draft constitution states hospital staff will “strive” to prevent avoidable healthcare reflections. Mr Butler believes “duty” would have been much better.
“It would seem the duty lies more with the patient - it has to be balanced,” he says.
“Hospitals should be obtaining minimum hygiene standards as a moral obligation to the people of this country.”
The Queen’s Speech is the latest chapter in a long battle for MRSA Action UK, which was formed as a charity in 2005 in response to rising numbers of superbug cases in Britain.
There are many lobby groups on the issue seeking to make a difference, but MRSA Action UK stands apart from the rest because of its charitable status.
It has a board of trustees, which means its executive is elected every 12 months and brings accountability - and the government’s ear.
“Because you’re registered, governments have to listen to us,” Mr Butler explains.
“Being a charity opens doors for us - we’re respectable as a result. We keep all our accounts audited, take minutes for all our meetings - everything’s logged and recorded as it would be in a proper organisation.”
MRSA Action UK has been particularly active in making contact with organisations from other countries, particularly Holland.
This enables it to compare foreign practices with those in place here. Its research has highlighted the development in Holland of a new strain of MRSA which is being transferred to humans from livestock because of farmers’ overuse of antibiotics. And its study of approaches abroad has seen it back the Dutch ‘search and destroy’ strategy over the government’s target-driven priorities.
The latter is just one of the infection-related issues concerning Mr Butler’s charity.
It wants a greater emphasis on educating the public about infections, is worried by evidence that surgical gloves are much worse than human hands at transferring bacteria on human contact and wants wider reporting of infection figures.
The latter issue is ongoing following the Queen’s Speech, as the proposed NHS constitution will contain a right for patients to choose which hospital they want to receive treatment in.
Yet the government has had to rely on a small number of hospitals to achieve the 50 per cent reduction of MRSA cases targeted by former health secretary John Reid in 2004, Mr Butler claims.
Now a “postcode lottery” exists where 17 hospitals actually have higher bacteraemia incidents than four years ago, he says. Patients have no way of checking whether this is the case.
“They should be able to in a free and democratic society,” Mr Butler adds.
“People can’t make a choice if they don’t have all the information before them.”
Through its responses to consultations, meeting with senior NHS officials and awareness-raising initiatives, MRSA Action UK will continue to press the government to do more to tackle this important issue.
The Queen’s Speech has given it new impetus to continue its work - putting alternative policies to the DoH in a bid to prevent more families suffering as a result of avoidable infections like MRSA.$1253004.htm


Infection postcode lottery ‘damaging patient choice’

Tuesday, 09 Dec 2008 08:18

Hospital infection rate ‘postcode lottery’
A lack of information about infection rates will prevent patients making a meaningful choice about which hospital they prefer, a health expert has warned.

The choice will be introduced in the NHS constitution, to be brought into law in the health reform bill announced in last week’s Queen’s Speech.

Derek Butler of charity MRSA Action UK argued a “postcode lottery” exists over hospitals’ ability to keep infections under control.

He told the government relied on a small number of hospitals making impressive gains in its successful attempt to halve the number of infections from MRSA between 2004 and 2008.

Seventeen hospitals even saw the number of MRSA infections rise during this period, he said.

“What we’ve said to the government is: this is a postcode lottery,” Mr Butler told

“There is no evidence for people having any information that’s freely accessible to tell them what their local hospital trust infection rates are.

“People can’t make a choice if they don’t have all the information before them.”

Statistics are only available for MRSA infections, which only account for six per cent of all healthcare infections. The remainder come from other causes like surgical site infections, wound infections and those from catheters.

Mr Butler was critical of the draft NHS constitution’s commitment to “strive” to reduce avoidable healthcare infections.

He said a “duty” would have been a more appropriate commitment.

“We believe the NHS constitution is a step in the right direction - but it is only a small step,” Mr Butler added.

“What worries us is this government has brought in the constitution, yet still nine out of ten hospital trusts are failing on minimum hygiene standards under the hygiene code.

“Hospitals should not be attaining the minimum standard - they should be attaining higher than minimum standards as a moral obligation to the people of this country.”

The DoH said the government already makes information on serious infections like MRSA and C. difficilie publicly available via the Health Protection Agency.

The information is also available via NHS Choices, which currently allows members of the public to search for their local Trust’s MRSA figures and will do so for C. diff too in the future.

A spokesperson said: “We will also be launching a public awareness campaign next year, which aims to broaden people’s understanding of infections.”

c - 2008


Nine in 10 hospitals failing on hygiene

by MILES ERWIN - Sunday, November 23, 2008
Nine out of ten hospitals failed to meet hygiene rules put in place to tackle superbugs, according to the results of spot checks published today.
Just five health trusts out of 51 were complying with the guidelines despite fears over the spread of infections such as MRSA and C-difficile.
More than half of the trusts did not keep all areas within their hospitals clean and well maintained.
One in five was not properly decontaminating hospital equipment, the checks, carried out by Healthcare Commission inspectors, showed.
Derek Butler, chairman of MRSA Action UK, said: ‘There seems to be a complete failure of the trusts to understand basic hygiene and decontamination.
‘They’re too reliant on antibiotics to fight infections and they’ve lost the ability to deal with hygiene now.’
About 18,000 people have died of c-diff in the past ten years while 9,500 people died of all hospital infections last year. The commission’s study covered about a third of all acute health trusts in the country.
While most of the breaches did not pose an immediate risk to patients, commission chief executive Anna Walker said: ‘These are important warning signs to trust boards that there may be a weakness in their systems.’
Three trusts - Bromley, Ipswich and Ashford & St Peter’s - were put on notice to improve cleanliness.
Health minister Ann Keen said: ‘Any breach of the hygiene code is unacceptable and we expect trusts to take swift action to rectify areas of concern.’


Copper ‘kills hospital superbug’

7:44am UK, Saturday November 01, 2008
Lisa Dowd, Midlands correspondent

Ancient healing methods could be the key to fighting the deadly hospital superbug MRSA.
Scientists say that making door handles, taps and light switches from copper could stop the spread of the modern-day killer.

Bacteria is unable to survive on the metal, so copper surfaces could succeed where other infection controls have not been as successful.

The healing power of copper has been used by Egyptians, Greeks and Romans to treat wounds but has only been considered as modern solution since a study at Birmingham’s Selly Oak Hospital.

Microbiologist Tom Elliott said: “It is what I would call an intelligent metal. The copper is quietly working away in the background, killing organisms all the time.”

We have talked about different agents in the past, cleaning agents like chlorine and hydrogen peroxide, which have an immediate effect but not a long lasting effect like copper.

Microbiologist Tom Elliott
MRSA is often passed on through contact with surfaces. When tested, the copper items had 95% fewer bugs on them than those made from materials like stainless steel.

But campaigners are cautious about the results of the 18 month study.

“No one magic bullet will cure the problem,” said Derek Butler from MRSA Action UK.

You can have hand washing, that will not cure it on its own. Sterilisation of equipment will not cure it on its own. The actual deep cleaning of hospitals will not cure it on its own and neither will this. “However, put them all together and you have quite a powerful weapon there to take on the bacterium, which we need to deal with now because it is the future generations that are going to pay the heaviest price if we do not tackle these bugs at this moment in time”- Derek Butler, MRSA Action UK

According to the National Audit Office, at least 300,000 patients pick up infections every year in the UK, and around 5,000 people are likely to die as a result.

Now researchers hope this ancient remedy will help fight modern infections, which cost the NHS an estimated 1bn each year.

“Once we started looking into it we found we’d forgotten what we’d learned 6,000 years ago”, says Mark Tur from the Copper Development Association.

“Copper kills bugs and the application of it through science has given us that extra foundation we need these days for a proper assessment of copper “.

If further trials are successful, researchers hope hospitals across Europe will switch to fittings containing what they think is a precious metal.



Two babies die in E.coli outbreak at special care unit

By Jenny Hope and Emily Andrews
Last updated at 11:21 PM on 24th October 2008
Two babies have died after an outbreak of E.coli at a hospital.
A further nine infants have contracted the bug and two of them are being treated for life-threatening infections.
E.coli was found at the neonatal intensive care unit at Luton and Dunstable Hospital at the end of last month.
The unit has been closed to babies from other hospitals and staff are carrying out ‘enhanced cleaning’. Only parents are allowed to visit.
Officials say the unit is the first in England to have been hit by the antibiotic-resistant ESBL strain of Escherichia coli.
Infection control and cleanliness at the hospital were criticised in an inspection report published in July by the Healthcare Commission. It called for immediate action to tackle both problems.
A hospital nurse, who did not want to be named, said yesterday: ‘This is so upsetting for everyone involved. The poor parents must be devastated and my heart goes out to them.
‘The hospital was criticised by the Healthcare Commission for failing on its infection prevention only three months ago.
‘We are trying very hard but clearly it hasn’t been enough which is just terrible.’
A mother who has just had a baby at the hospital said: ‘I’m very shocked to learn of these deaths from E.coli.
‘I know that the neonatal unit is separate from the maternity ward but it makes me wonder if I or my daughter have been put at risk.
‘I can’t believe that in this day and age these superbugs are still infecting hospitals - why can’t this hospital be kept properly clean?’
ESBL strains of E.coli can cause serious infections, according to Hugh Pennington, Britain’s leading microbiologist. The emeritus professor from Aberdeen University said the bug may have spread for a number of reasons.
‘Top of the list is poor hygiene among the staff, perhaps some kind of breakdown in normally strict procedures on neonatal wards,’ he added.
‘The cleanliness of equipment being used in the unit also needs investigating, whether there was one particular piece of equipment that was involved in all the cases of infection.
‘It is possible the infection was brought in from outside but unlikely.’
Professor Pennington said E.coli bugs were carried within the gut of healthy people without causing infection, but resistant strains in a neonatal unit were bad news.
‘Newborn infants are vulnerable for obvious reasons and although treatment is possible, it is more difficult,’ he said.
‘Bloodstream infection can lead to complications depending on where it ends up and if it affects the brain and develops into meningitis, for example, it can have a very bad outcome.
‘It’s important that possible environmental contamination of equipment or the surroundings is investigated so the source of the bug can be found and we can learn the lessons.’
Superbug infections have claimed the lives of infants before.
Luke Day died from MRSA in February 2005 just 36 hours after his birth at Ipswich Hospital.
A Luton hospital spokesman said E.coli bacteria would not have been the sole cause of death of the two babies.
‘ESBL can be present in many people without causing any problems or symptoms but babies in the neonatal unit are particularly vulnerable to falling ill because they are sick or premature,’ she said.
‘The situation is now under control - there have been no new cases of ESBL in the unit since October 13 when the outbreak was declared.
‘The babies are receiving appropriate treatment and enhanced cleaning measures have been brought in to ensure there is no further risk to other infants in the unit.’


NHS turns tide on C. Diff superbug as cases fall 35% in a year

By Daniel Martin
Last updated at 1:46 PM on 23rd October 2008

The number of people infected by the hospital superbug C. diff has plunged by more than a third in a year.
There were 10,866 cases reported in hospital between April and June - down 35 per cent on the same period in 2007.
The sharp decline follows years of campaigning by the Daily Mail on the scourge of superbugs in the country’s hospitals.
It means high profile campaigns to encourage hand washing in hospital and the responsible use of antibiotics appear to be having an effect.
It comes just a month after the Government announced it had managed to halve MRSA rates over the past four years.
Latest figures from the Health Protection Agency show that between April and June there were 8,683 cases of C. diff recorded in patients aged 65 years and over. This is the age group most likely to contract the bug.
It represents a fall of 18 per cent from the previous quarter and a drop of 38 per cent from the same quarter in 2007.
The Government is now well on course to meet its target that the number of C. diff cases should be 30 per cent less than the average over the year 2007/08.
The latest figures are 21 per cent less than the 2007/08 average. The target does not have to be met until 2010/11.
Mr Johnson also announced that the Government was close to meeting its target on slashing maximum NHS waiting times to 18 weeks.
Health secretary Alan Johnson said: ‘Twelve years ago it was common for patients to have to wait two years for an operation and in recent years, C. diff infections were a significant challenge.
‘Achieving our 18 week commitment nationally five months early is great news for patients in England who can now expect much faster access to NHS care and it is immensely rewarding to see such a significant reduction in C. difficile following our investment in a comprehensive package of measures to drive down infections.’
Labour has pledged that by December, no one should wait more than 18 weeks between seeing their GP and having their treatment - unless they choose to wait longer or it would be in their medical interests to do so.
To allow for such people, the target is for 90 per cent of patients admitted to hospital to be treated within the timescale, and 95 per cent of people not admitted to receive their treatment within 18 weeks.
Latest figures show that, nationally, these figures have been met for the first time - meaning waiting is at its lowest ever level in the NHS.
The average patient now waits just eight weeks for treatment in hospital and four weeks outside it.
However, there were massive regional variations. Only 48 per cent of trusts had met the target, with some doing very badly - at Bromley PCT for example, only 57 per cent were treated within 18 weeks.
The Government’s target will not be judged to have succeeded unless all trusts meet it.
Some specialties - such as orthopaedics (such as hip replacements) and neurosurgery - were also well behind on the target.
Nevertheless, the fall in waiting times is a huge achievement. Under the last Tory government, health secretary Virginia Bottomley was only able to promise a wait of 18 months for hip replacements and cataracts.
Professor Mike Catchpole, director of the Health Protection Agency’s centre for infections, welcomed the fall in C. diff rates.
However, he added: ‘It’s too early to say whether we will see the same continued success tackling C. difficile that has been seen with MRSA , but if numbers continue to drop in this way in future we are well on our way to seeing outbreaks of this unpleasant infection become fewer and fewer.’
Earlier this month, watchdog the Healthcare Commission said many trusts were still not meeting standards on superbug infection.
Maggie Kemmner, the commission’s head of safety, said: ‘This is good news for patients and good news for the NHS. C. difficile has affected too many people in this country, and their families.
‘We should remember that there are a number of other infections that pose a risk to the safety of patients. Trusts must therefore never be complacent or take their eye off what is happening with other infections.’
However, Derek Butler of MRSA Action UK said there were still far too many regional variations - and C. diff rates are still rising in around a third of trusts.


Two out of three hospital trusts fail on hygiene and nearly half miss MRSA targets, claims new report

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 11:37 PM on 15th October 2008

Almost two out of three hospital trusts are failing to tackle dirty wards and deadly infections, a study has revealed.

Nearly half missed the target to cut MRSA superbug rates last year and too few are achieving good hygiene standards, according to a Healthcare Commission report.

The independent watchdog’s annual ‘health check’ of the NHS shows improving levels of services but warns that there are still major areas for concern in tackling infections such as MRSA and C.diff.

Six out of ten acute and specialist trusts are not meeting government standards on managing infections and cutting MRSA rates.

Just 67 of 169 of these trusts complied with all three hygiene standards and met MRSA superbug targets.

In total, 48 per cent of hospitals failed to reach a target to cut MRSA infections by at least 60 per cent over three years.

Failures are occurring on one or more of three basic standards on infection control in 114 trusts overall - a quarter of the NHS - up from 111 trusts in the previous year.

Of the trusts that failed on basic hygiene, 42 are acute hospitals, 62 primary care, eight mental health and two are ambulance trusts.

For the first time, the watchdog is planning spot checks throughout the NHS, rather than just inspecting hospitals.

Under a new system, trusts that cannot show that they are meeting standards on infection control face conditions on their registration when the Care Quality Commission takes over as regulator next April.

Healthcare Commission chief executive Anna Walker said NHS trusts also needed to pay attention to other infections.

She said: ‘We must not take our eye off the other infections such as norovirus, which are as significant for patients if they catch them in hospital.’

In the watchdog’s rating of the 391 NHS trusts across England for 2007-08, 42 trusts were ranked excellent on both the quality of services and their use of resources compared with 19 in 2006-07 and two the previous year.

But Derek Butler, chairman of MRSA Action UK, said some hospitals were making virtually no headway in getting on top of healthcare infections.

He said ‘Why are we allowing any hospitals not to comply with the hygiene code, we should be sending inspectors in.

‘We know 17 hospitals actually had more MRSA cases last year than in 2004, since when they are supposed to have halved their rates.’

Shadow Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, said ‘It’s encouraging to see that overall standards are improving in many NHS Trusts, but there are still some disturbing gaps in performance.’

Steve Barnett, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation which represents over 95 per cent of NHS organisations, said ‘While the Annual Health Check shows a trend of improvement in healthcare acquired infections, we support a zero tolerance approach and we know NHS organisations are fully committed to achieving this.’


DIY safety kit that kills hospital superbugs in just 10 seconds

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 12:22 AM on 14th October 2008

A DIY safety kit to protect hospital patients from superbugs has gone on sale.

The pack contains protective sprays and lotions which the manufacturers claim can kill MRSA, e-coli, norovirus, and salmonella within 10 seconds.

It also includes disposable wipes and is said even to kill the bird flu virus.

Superbug killer: Manufacturers claim the new PatientPak kils MRSA, e-coli, norovirus and salmonella within 10 seconds
The 15.99 PatientPak, available from the internet and selected Boots and Holland and Barrett stores, uses the chemical formula Clinell, previously only found in medical institutions and hailed as the most universal formula for killing infections.

Chairman of the MRSA Action group, Derek Butler, whose stepfather died from the infection, said people will use the packs because they are ‘ desperate’ and ‘afraid’.

He said: ‘People are more afraid of contracting superbugs than they are of waiting lists and these products are giving them security that the government isn’t providing.

‘Patients deserve a clean, safe environment and doctors and nurses also have the responsibility of providing that safety.’

But the chairman of National Concern for Healthcare Infections, Graham Tanner, said it undermined the NHS.

‘Ill patients should not be forced to pay for a service that hospitals should provide as a basic principle of the NHS,’ he said.

‘This is a very cynical move by a company that is making these products to exploit fears and anxieties.’

Dr Guy Braverman, spokesman for manufacturer GAMA Heathcare, said: ‘PatientPak is a tremendous breakthrough.’

Comments (4)
Here’s what readers have had to say so far.
To the chairman of National Concern for Healthcare Infections, Graham Tanner - yes it’s a cynical exploitation of anxiety. That’s what a business will do because it’s driven by profit. You can’t expect anything else.

But the market wouldn’t be there if the NHS was better.

Privatised cleaning has meant that cleaners are organised to save money, not to getting the best cleaning job done.

The business profit motive can mean efficiency in saving money, but it doesn’t mean safety or quality of service. That has to be achieved through public systems of checking up. Plus, preferably by having staff who are NOT run as a business.
- Shan Morgain, UK, 14/10/2008 2:33
The Government should buy a supply to eradicate the superbugs of the financial institutions commonly known as ‘fat cats’
- Filmex, London/Budapest, 14/10/2008 5:04
just about as promising as a magic wand
- emma, sussex, 14/10/2008 13:15
Interesting idea, however care should be taken not to over use the product or it will probably become ineffective.

The problem with so many of these bugs is a result of too many anti-biotics being prescribed, often due to patient pressure on GPs. This has resulted in reduced immune system activity.

Medical professionals are now aware that over-prescribing is ‘not healthy’ however they still have to deal with patients who believe anti-biotics will work on viruses, such as the common cold. They will only work on primary or secondary bacteria infection.

A few years ago Southampton Hospital research showed that sore throats recovered during the same timescale whether or not antibiotics were prescribed.

So if people feel happier with their little patientpak, enjoy!
- Diana Newnham, Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, France, 14/10/2008 13:49


Deaths linked to MRSA superbug hit record levels

HELEN PUTTICK, Health Correspondent
11 October 2008

Deaths linked to the hospital superbug MRSA reached record levels in Scotland last year, with the number recorded more than double that logged seven years ago.
The infection was a factor in 230 deaths during 2007, according to data from death certificates released by the General Register Office for Scotland yesterday.

In 56 cases, MRSA killed the patient and in 174 it was a contributory cause. The toll varied between different hospitals, with 14 deaths at Ninewells in Dundee and 13 at Stobhill in Glasgow. Patient groups said the figures were worrying but not surprising. Back in 1996 doctors certifying deaths noted MRSA as a factor on just 34 occasions. It is understood greater awareness among health professionals of the condition has led to the rise since then.

Dr Jean Turner, a former GP who now serves as executive director of the Scotland Patients’ Association, said she believed the number who lose their lives to the superbug may still be under-reported.

“I think there is a danger we still do not know the extent of it yet,” she said.

“I know everyone is working hard, but I think there is a way to go.”

MRSA is a type of bacterium - Staphylococcus aureus (SA) - which is carried on the surface of the skin by around a third of the population. It begins to cause problems when it breaks into the body, with surgical wounds and entry points for tubes and catheters presenting a particular problem.

Straightforward SA infections can be treated with antibiotics but the bacteria has mutated, becoming resistant to such treatments, creating the MRSA superbug which is much harder to fight.

Dr Turner said, despite the high profile of the infection, she believed people still did not understand the role they could play in combating the problem. The number of patients diagnosed with an MRSA infection in Scottish hospitals has been falling slowly for some 15 months. New data, released this week, showed the fifth consecutive drop between April and June this year, when the number of cases fell to 185, compared to 197 for the previous three months.

While acknowledging the rise in mortality, the Scottish Government has welcomed this trend. A spokeswoman said: “It is disappointing to see any increase in deaths attributed to MRSA infection. However, it is important to note that these figures cover the period to the end of 2007. Information released on Wednesday on serious MRSA infections in 2008 gives us cause for cautious optimism that a corner is now being turned.”

Derek Butler, chairman of charity MRSA Action UK, is less convinced the problem is coming under control. He said: “I just do not think the policies they have in place are having the impact they were hoping they would have ... It doesn’t surprise me that the number of deaths has gone up. They need to step up their game.”

Widespread screening of hospital staff for MRSA is among the measures he would like to see introduced.


Deaths linked to MRSA have risen by 300% in a decade

Published Date: 11 October 2008

DEATHS linked to the MRSA superbug in Scotland have more than tripled in a decade, figures revealed yesterday.

Last year 230 deaths were recorded as having MRSA as either the main cause or a contributory factor - up from 69 in 1997. And in just a year deaths rose by almost 8 per cent, up from 213 in 2006.

The figures come after a report earlier this week found that cases of MRSA and Clostridium difficile were now falling in Scottish hospitals. The Scottish Government said an increase in deaths last year was disappointing, but more recent reductions in cases were a cause for optimism.
Figures published by the General Register Office for Scotland showed that there were 56 deaths in 2007 where MRSA was recorded as the underlying cause - up from 51 in 2006 and just 13 in 1997. MRSA was noted as a contributory factor in a further 174 deaths last year, up from 162 in 2006 and 56 in 1997.

Earlier this week Health Protection Scotland (HPS) reported that MRSA cases fell 6 per cent between the first and second quarters of this year. C difficile cases also fell 7 per cent.

Experts believe part of the reason for rising deaths from superbugs such as MRSA and C difficile could be greater awareness. But in some cases it is also believed that more severe strains of disease and an increasing resistance to antibiotics could be contributing to rising mortality.

The Aberdeen-based microbiologist Professor Hugh Pennington said there was no evidence to suggest that more severe strains of MRSA were linked to rising deaths. But he said a lack of investigation meant more serious types could be being missed.

“One of the issues I am concerned about is how thoroughly some cases of MRSA are investigated to reveal whether some types are causing more severe disease than others.

“There is a possibility that we could miss an opportunity to target these strains.”

Margaret Watt, of the Scotland Patients’ Association, said the latest figures on MRSA deaths were disappointing.

“We really need to keep our eye on MRSA , as well as C difficile,” she said.

“It is scary if we are going to keep seeing an increase in deaths from both these infections.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “It is disappointing to see any increase in deaths attributed to MRSA infection. However, it is important to note that these figures cover the period to the end of 2007.

“Information released this week on serious MRSA infections in 2008 gives us cause for cautious optimism that a corner is now being turned,” she said.

185 cases of MRSA reported in Scotland between April and June this year, down 6 per cent on the previous three months.
30 per cent of healthy people estimated to carry Staphylococcus aureus - the bacterium linked to MRSA - harmlessly on their skin.
1,861 cases of C difficile reported in Scotland between January and March this year.
1,732 cases of C difficile reported between April and June.
597 death certificates mentioned C diff as a cause or factor, in 2007 in Scotland.
027 strain of C diff linked to more severe disease.
8 deaths linked to MRSA in NHS Lanarkshire in 2007, up from 18 the previous year.


BBC Radio Kent

John Warnett
Broadcast on Radio Kent Fri 10 Oct - 08:01:06
John Warnett talks to Derek Butler, Chair of MRSA Action UK about Kent Health Watch, the new partnership run by Kent County Council and the NHS
A new scheme is underway in Kent to stop a repeat of one of the worst infection scandals in NHS history. It’s following the C.diff outbreaks in Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Trust from 2004 to 2006 where around 90 people died. Now Kent Health Watch has been set up by the County Council and the NHS to give you chance to have your say on the way health services are run. Well joining me on the line is Derek Butler from the MRSA Action UK group.
Derek, good morning. Will this work these ideas of letting the public have their say on the health service?
Derek:I think it’s an excellent idea. Many companies run similar schemes within their own industries. The industry I work in, which is the nuclear industry, have what they call “Safe Call”. So if you see anything that you think is not quite right or unsafe then you can phone this number. And I think that system that’s been set up the County Council in Kent and the NHS is excellent, it gives the public the chance to say what they think is wrong with the services that are being provided.
John: You as being part of the MRSA Action group, obviously there will be, I mean we’ve had stories on this radio programme, particularly after the outbreak where people have said that we saw people going from one patient to another without washing their hands. Is that the sort of thing you expect them to bring up with these people?
Derek: Yes, the Government are trying to encourage patients and relatives to question the medical staff in the way that they go between patients without washing their hands and things like that. And I think it’s great that this system is being set up. And I think that the public need to question the medical staff. Humans are fallible, they make mistakes and the staff are under enormous pressure in the NHS, they do a marvellous job, but they will forget from time to time, and I think that little reminder is always handy.
John: One suspects that there were probably complaints made about the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust prior to this outbreak becoming public knowledge. How can we guarantee that those complaints will be dealt with properly?
Derek: I think that’s down to the system that’s set up. It would be nice if the public were actually a part of the system, ie they sat on the panels or boards that are there, so that they can then have a look and say yes we need to question this, and we need to look at it. The Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells one, it wasn’t the worst outbreak... should I say it was the worst outbreak, it wasn’t the worst hospital. At the time of the outbreak there were many hospitals with higher C.diff rates than Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells, it just happened to be that it came to light because of the number of complaints that the Healthcare Commission received from that hospital, so they went in to inspect. So again that system worked, people were actually reporting problems to the Healthcare Commission complaining, so it triggered something so they went in and inspected and that’s how it came to light. So the Kent idea is great. Let people put their ideas forward, let them complain or let them say that there’s something not quite right and then the NHS staff should endorse that - look at it not as a complaint, we don’t think of it as a complaint when a patient raises something, its not a complaint, it’s a free consultancy. They actually get someone to tell them where the system is breaking down.
John: Derek, thank you, Derek Butler from MRSA Action UK talking about the new scheme set up in Kent so that people will be able to contact more easily NHS bosses and raise their concerns at what’s going on in our hospitals.


New PatientPak helps kill superbugs, viruses and bacteria

Submitted by: PatientPak
Thursday, 09 October 2008
New PatientPak helps kill superbugs, viruses and bacteria

A new world first in personal hygiene - PatientPak - is being launched in response to people’s need to take control of their own protection against superbugs when in hospital. People can use PatientPak to help protect themselves when they visit hospital as it is proven to kill pathogens, including MRSA, and is effective within 10 seconds.

As PatientPak is proven to kill a wide spectrum of viruses and bacteria including E Coli, Norovirus, Campylobacter, Salmonella, Listeria and Avian Flu (H5N1), it is also good for use in the home or when travelling. The kit is also useful in the battle against C difficile.

The launch is well timed as it coincides with the announcement by Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary, that the proposed NHS constitution gives patients responsibilities as well as rights. These should include high standards of personal hygiene to avoid bringing infections on to a hospital ward and constant vigilance to check on the cleanliness of NHS staff and facilities.

The PatientPak products contain a special, highly effective patented formula developed by medical doctors, which has only been available in hospitals to date. The formula works in a unique way that stops harmful bacteria building up resistance to the active ingredients.

There are two types of wipes - powerful antimicrobial surface wipes plus gentle yet effective face and body wipes. There’s an antimicrobial sanitising hand spray and an antimicrobial hair and body wash, both of which are specially formulated to be gentle on the skin whilst killing harmful superbugs, bacteria and viruses.

Also included is a fabric spray that kills germs that can survive on bed linen, curtains and clothing. The special pH-neutral cleansing soap and nail brush are essential for removing spores and other pathogens, including C difficile. With good hygiene practice, comfort and convenience in mind, there is a toothbrush plus toothpaste, lip balm and pen. All items are intended for disposal at the end of the hospital stay, to minimize the transfer of bugs.

The pack - that retails at 15.99 - includes a comprehensive leaflet full of advice on good hygiene practice and explains how patients can protect themselves from superbugs. There’s also a polite notice that patients can place next to their hospital bed, which requests that people check that their hands are clean before treatment is given. This was initiated by the leading charity, MRSA Action UK, which is supported by PatientPak.

The leading microbiologist, Professor Richard James, who is Director of the Centre for Healthcare Associated Infections, based at the University of Nottingham said, “The new kit is very timely, providing a convenient and simple solution for patients wishing to take greater care of their own personal hygiene. The educational leaflet is highly informative and the Polite Notice will assist patients who are too ill or embarrassed to ask carers to wash their hand before treatment.”

Dr Guy Braverman from PatientPak added, “PatientPak is a tremendous breakthrough for those who go into hospital and have felt powerless in tackling superbugs. Although it is impossible to completely eliminate harmful germs, the new pack is designed to help patients and visitors exert control over their own safety. Crucially, when people protect themselves, they are protecting others too.”

The PatientPak kit is ideal for anyone in hospital, in a care home or someone travelling where they are concerned about hygiene. Pregnant women, visitors to hospitals, parents with young children and those vulnerable to infection are recommended to keep a PatientPak handy.

- Ends -


On the frontline in war on germs

“We have already eradicated one or two, but we can’t even think of eradicating most of them”
Published Date: 03 October 2008
IMAGINE for a moment what the end of the world might be like. War ravished nations obliterated by nuclear attack? Perhaps.

A mighty big bang and we all go out the way the earth came in? Well, maybe.

Or what if we’re wiped out by a clever life-form - too smart for us mere humans - that will march on the human race with such an invincible, unstoppable force that men, women and children will simply succumb to its superiority and, one by one, suffer in misery until they die?
Well, unless you believe in UFOs and Dr Who, then that couldn’t possibly happen... could it?

Enter softly spoken Dorothy Crawford. With her cropped grey hair, white lab coat and spectacles, she is an unlikely messenger for the Grim Reaper.

Yet her warning that the human race is already being outpaced in the fight of its life - having unwittingly cultivated the ideal breeding ground for the very life forms that could ultimately threaten our survival - is enough to make even the most sceptical among us reach for the life insurance policies.

For it seems that if the rising cases of antibiotic resistant hospital superbugs like Clostridium difficile and MRSA don’t get us, there’s any number of other cunning little bugs waiting to leap from animal to human and rapidly jeopardise our very existence.

The Professor of Medical Microbiology at Edinburgh University isn’t quite ringing the death knell right now, but she does have a stern warning.

“Will we ever win the fight against microbes? I don’t think so,” she shrugs. “We can get rid of some of them - we have already eradicated one or two - but we can’t even think of eradicating most of them. They are in nature. What we have to do is be more aware of the situations in which they arise, do more surveillance and monitoring and get ready to respond when there is an epidemic.”

That’s when - not if. And if anyone should know, it’s Prof Crawford, whose latest book, Deadly Companions, warns of the increasing risks posed by animal-borne diseases which thanks to modern life, livestock farming methods and our love for international travel, are more liable than ever to jump the species and infect millions at an alarming rate.

She’s not alone in fearing the worst. Earlier this week the government’s leading infection adviser, Prof. Hugh Pennington, warned he fears a major outbreak of superbugs unless public monitoring is given more resources. “If we neglect these bugs, we neglect them at our peril,” he stressed. “The technology is there to spot these things as they appear and we know how to react to them.”

But who knows where - or when - the next superbug will hit?

“Microbes are always a step ahead of us,” Prof Crawford explains. “They have a generation time of a day while ours is 30 years. We are always going to be on the back foot and having to react to them.”

Potentially devastating diseases emerge at an astonishing rate - around one pops up every year. When and where the next one will emerge, is anyone’s guess.

“They are mostly from animals - and we have to recognise where the risks are and have the mechanics in place for recognising them and controlling them quickly,” adds Prof Crawford.

“In Western society we are protected from a lot of it, yet there are still 17 million deaths a year from infectious diseases and 95 per cent of them are in poor countries.”

Indeed, the third world pandemic of bubonic plague is under way right now, carried by rats and stretching halfway across America. The leap to humans could happen at any time.

And HIV is already responsible for the worst pandemic ever known. It jumped to humans from a chimpanzee subspecies and aided by a silent incubation period it spread around the globe. Now there are 40 million people living with it, 25 million dead and around 10,000 dying every day.

The same could have evolved courtesy of Sars if the men and women in the white coats hadn’t come to our rescue.

A single microbe made the leap from a cat to a human in a marketplace in China, sparking an outbreak of atypical pneumonia in humans. The doctor treating them travelled to Hong Kong unwittingly infecting 17 others who then carried the virus to five countries. One passenger on a single flight infected 22 people.

“In fact, things worked very well with Sars,” says Prof Crawford, awarded the OBE in 2005. “We saw what was developing and we stopped it.”

Although her latest book is a chilling dossier on the threat from the humble microbe, the Glasgow-born professor’s real passion lies in another area of her laboratory work that, hopefully, will save many desperate patients’ lives.

Three years ago it emerged that a pioneering strategy for tackling cancer had saved the life of a ten-year-old girl, struck down by a potentially fatal brain tumour.

With her health rapidly deteriorating, doctors turned to Prof Crawford as a final resort. Immune-system cells taken from blood donors were used to attack the virus and suppress the girl’s deadly tumours. A bone-marrow transplant followed and, incredibly, she lived.

Today she juggles that pioneering research with helping to raise the profile of the dramatic research work going on at the university- and writing chilling tomes warning the world of the risks posed by those pesky microbes.

It sounds gloomy, but Prof Crawford does offer a glimmer of hope in the battle of the bugs. “Well,” she smiles, “at the end of the day we have larger brains than they do, so we must have a slight advantage, surely.”

- Deadly Companions by Dorothy H Crawford is published by Oxford University Press

Cameron’s outrage at OAP constituent’s ‘degrading’ MRSA death

Last updated at 1:41 AM on 02nd October 2008

David Cameron expressed his fury at Labour’s Health Service failures by highlighting the case of a constituent killed by a hospital-acquired superbug.

The Tory leader used his speech at the party conference to vent his anger about a letter he received from pensioner John Woods, whose 63-year-old wife died after contracting MRSA.

The 66-year-old told Mr Cameron, who represents Witney in Oxfordshire, that the treatment his wife Elizabeth received was ‘like something out of a 17th century asylum, not a 21st century 90billion Health Service’.

Mr Woods also described how, as his wife’s life ebbed away last August, he remembered her ‘sitting on the edge of her bed in distress and saying, “I never thought it would be like this”.’

A clearly moved Mr Cameron told the conference audience that the details of the case were ‘so dreadful and so degrading’ that he could not read out any more.

He said he forwarded the grieving widower’s letter to Alan Johnson but the Health Secretary’s reply - which listed a series of official bodies Mr Woods could write to complain - left him ‘appalled’.

Barely concealing his anger, Mr Cameron told delegates: ‘A Healthcare Commission. A Health Service Ombudsman. A Patient Advice and Liaison Service. An Independent Complaints Advocacy Service.

‘Four ways to make a complaint but not one way for my constituent’s wife to die with dignity. God, we have got to change that.’

Mr Woods and his wife, a nurse, had been married for 37 years and lived in a village near the town of Chipping Norton, in Oxfordshire.

Last night, Mr Woods, who has a daughter Catherine who lives in Australia, could not be contacted.

It is understood he is spending time working on a cargo ship. His wife is believed to have been treated at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital, where there have already been 32 cases of MRSA in the first six months of the year.

Just hours after his speech, Mr Cameron was embroiled in a spin row after Mr Johnson’s spokesman accused him of making the Health Secretary’s reply appear ‘impersonal’.

The spokesman insisted that the letter was personally signed by Mr Johnson, who also wrote how sorry he was about the situation.

But Mr Cameron’s spokesman hit back, saying: ‘The extract was entirely accurate and Labour’s response just shows how out of touch they are. Mrs Woods suffered an appalling ordeal and nothing can alter that fact.’

Derek Butler, chairman of the MRSA Action UK pressure group, said: ‘We wholeheartedly agree with David Cameron’s speech.

‘It is high time both the Government and the opposition put as much effort into fighting health care infections as they have trying to save the financial markets and banks.’


Penicillin DNA Sequence Brings Hope for New Antibiotics

Posted on: Thursday, 2 October 2008, 08:00 CDT
The DNA sequence of the fungus that produces penicillin has been deciphered by Dutch researchers.

This monumental discovery is just in time for the 80th anniversary of the breakthrough of penicillin, discovered by Sir Alexander Fleming.

Researchers hope that discovering the genome of Penicillium chrysogenum will increase further development of new antibiotics to help surmount the problems of resistance.

Penicillium chrysogenum is employed in the manufacture of antibiotics such as amoxicillin, ampicillin, cephalexin and cefadroxil. The use of penicillin in destroying bacteria was found in 1928 after mold spores unintentionally tainted a Petri dish in a laboratory. Further work on the drug revealed it was safe for humans to use.
Approximately one billion people take penicillin every year world wide. However, antibiotic resistance is becoming more and more problematic.

Experts have frequently warned against the overuse of antibiotics and cautioned there is a vital need for the industry to try to create new drugs.

Researchers also stated that in addition to fighting resistance, the genome sequence could also improve the overall manufacturing of antibiotics.

Dr Roel Bovenberg, a researcher at DSM Anti-Infectives, noted that the four-year project had brought up “several surprises” that they were further investigating in cooperation with academics.

“It provides insight into what genes encode for, know-how in terms of manufacturing and new compounds to be identified and tested,” he said. “There are genes and gene families we did not think would be involved in biosynthesis of penicillin - they weren’t on our radar so that is our follow-up work.”

Professor Hugh Pennington, who is an expert in bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen, stated that the genome sequence could lead to the improvement and creation of new antibiotics.

“If we understand the genome we might be able to manipulate the genes,” Pennington stated.

The professor noted that in the past antibiotics had been discovered by simply looking at fungi production; recently scientists had been working to modify current treatments.

“All the easy targets have been hit by one drug or another so it’s proving very difficult to find new compounds and we’re going to need some lateral thinking,” he said. “If the genome helps to do antibiotic development quicker, then that can only be a good thing.”

The complete work on the 13,500-gene sequence will be published in October’s Nature Biotechnology.


The killer that is stalking the ward

MRSA Action UK research disputes Health Protection Agency claims that the Government is well on top of the super bug crisis.

Click here to read

(c) MRSA Action UK June 2008


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