Radio Day with MRSA Action UK & PatientPak  

Derek Butler, Chair of MRSA Action UK, took part in a Radio Day with PatientPak on the 16th December to raise awareness of healthcare infections and what should be done to alleviate the burden on the NHS and the effect on patients.  He was interviewed with Jonathan Sayeed, Executive Chairman of PatientPak.  It was a successful day with fifteen radio interviews with fifteen stations, and a pick-up on forty-two stations as a result of an interview with Sky Radio.  This reached a 16.6 million audience with over seven and a half hours of listening time.


Statistics from the Health Protection Agency, analysed by MRSA Action UK, had showed not all NHS Trusts had 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, showed that more than 25% of people surveyed worry that if they were admitted to hospital they would be at risk of contracting a superbug.  A third of those polled said they felt their NHS Trust could do more to make hospitals cleaner.  Jonathan Sayeed 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 well-being and the well-being of those around them."  Andy Burnham from Sky News asked how serious is the risk of a superbug?


Derek said it's quite serious when you consider 1 in 10 patients going into hospital will contract an infection of some form and in the region of 300,000 people contracting MRSA and C.diff in a year, so it's quite a serious situation.   MRSA is like any infection, it's no different from the Staph aureus bacteria, but it's resistant to a type of antibiotic called methicillin, and it's much harder to treat.  C.diff is a very debilitating infection, which gives you diarrhoea and can be fatal.  The government could implement far more stringent measures, such as screening, which is being introduced, everyone needs to stick to assiduously washing their hands, observations have shown only 60% compliance with hand washing, it has to be 100%.  Systems of control with regard to hygiene in the wards needed to be introduced, some wards are not hygienically clean and some were disgusting.


Jonathan outlined that hand washing is everyone's responsibility.  With coughs and sneezes covering one's mouth was important.  C.diff is carried naturally in the gut.  If a person is unconscious or in a situation where they can't look after themselves, staff need to work even harder with them.  Visitors can be helpful by paying attention to hand washing; if they don't then they can contribute to problems.  Derek added that Florence Nightingale once made a comment that "hospitals should do the sick no harm". It has to be that the NHS has to take responsibility for the care of our loved ones when they go into hospital.


Andy Burnham believed it was difficult - "people who have diseases are all in the same environment.  That's the nature of the beast, I know several people who have been into hospitals and ended up with illnesses they didn't have when they went in, you are never going to stop that are you?"


Derek said you are because if you look at the Dutch method of Search and Destroy - which we invented and ran with for a number of years, and then gave up because we thought it was too expensive, their infection rate for Staph aureus is very similar to ours. But if you look at their MRSA rates they are just one eightieth of ours.  Norway has a better record with MRSA than we do and they have a very similar health service to our own.  So, yes we can control these bacteria in our hospitals, there should be no excuse to say people are bringing them in, many healthcare infections are avoidable.


Jonathan added that it's useful for people to understand what superbugs are and how they can protect themselves. This can help to reduce the fear of going into hospital, one of the things found in the PatientPak survey was a quarter of people would consider home treatment to avoid going into hospital because of their fear of superbugs, if people become more knowledgeable, there is a lot of information that they can find if they Google MRSA.  By taking personal responsibility to find out they can help reduce the risks to themselves.


Andy asked if there was a big difference between the hospitals that do this well and the ones that don't.  Derek said yes there is, some hospitals have reduced their MRSA rates by 70-80%, and this is an incredible achievement, and we applaud them for doing that because they really have this nailed down.  But there are at least 17 hospitals that have rates higher now than what they were in 2004, and what we should be doing is saying, let's have a look at that.  The Healthcare Commission did a spot check of 51 hospitals and found that only 5 actually complied fully with the Hygiene Code that this Government introduced.  Now that's a breach of a law, so why aren't they going to these hospitals that have breached that Code and statutory requirement and saying that you need to do better, and you must comply with the Hygiene Code.  The Code is a minimum standard, we should be attaining a higher standard and we have a moral obligation to do that for the people of this country.  A leading microbiologist said, "Fighting healthcare infections is an all or nothing affair there can be no halfway house" and basically that's saying we all have to do this together.

 Visit PatientPak's website to hear the interviews

If you or someone you care about has been affected by a healthcare infection and you wish to discuss this with us, please contact us at