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Drop in infection rate puts target in sight

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Trusts moved a step closer to meeting the government’s MRSA target last week, after figures from the Health Protection Agency revealed a significant drop in cases.

There were 1,072 MRSA bacteraemia cases reported in England between July and September 2007, an 18% decrease on the 1,304 recorded in the previous quarter and a 35% decrease on the 1,651 recorded for the same quarter in 2006.

The six-monthly rate – recorded between April and September 2007 – was 1.24 cases per 10,000 bed days, compared with a rate of 1.77 in the previous six months.

To meet its target, the government says the NHS needs to achieve a quarterly figure of 963 cases or fewer between April and June 2008 – half the 1,925 average quarterly 2003–2004 figure – and some nurses believe that figure could now be in striking distance.

Martin Kiernan, vice chairperson of the Infection Prevention Society, said: ‘I think there is now a belief that the target is achievable. There was widespread scepticism initially and I was among those sceptics but I do think there’s a chance it can be met.’

But nurses also warn that it is important for trusts to continue to focus on reducing rates once the deadline has passed.

RCN nurse adviser in infection control Rose Gallagher said: ‘We need to look at the information that’s been gathered, take stock and decide how we realistically take this forward, and the best way to bring rates down further.’

Mr Kiernan added: ‘There will be a number of cases that we can’t do much about but we don’t yet know what that number is, so we must continue to strive towards reducing numbers further.’

Meanwhile Clostridium difficile rates also continued to fall, with 10,734 recorded cases in patients 65 and over, compared with 12,821 the same quarter in 2006 – a 16% decrease

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