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Government plans fresh offensive against MRSA

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The Department of Health is to set new targets and standards for tackling the healthcare-associated infection MRSA.

The government is planning to consult NHS staff and the public on new ways to reduce MRSA bacteraemia to a ‘minimum’, said Janice Stevens, associate director of the healthcare-associated infection and cleanliness division at the Department of Health last week.

The NHS hit the government’s previous national target of a 50% reduction in MRSA rates in acute settings last year and the DH is now looking at what national minimum standards should be set for the NHS to maintain the rate decrease.

‘We are about to consult with the NHS and the public about getting a reducible minimum on MRSA. We are calling it the MRSA objective for the future, to move beyond the target,’ she told a conference on HCAIs in London.

Whatever ‘objective’ is developed for MRSA is also likely to include targets for Clostridium difficile in the future, and could become part of a national standards framework applicable to all NHS organisations.

The DH is also currently developing a campaign to increase awareness among NHS staff and the public on what they can do to combat HCAIs. However, this is likely to be rolled out at a local rather than national level, said Ms Stevens, due to public mistrust of the government.

‘The campaign will build on what we have already got [and] be about broadening the public’s understanding of infections and empowering patients, staff and the public,’ she said.

Meanwhile, this week the National Audit Office is due to publish a follow-up report on HCAIs. The watchdog’s first report on the issue was published in 2004 and was highly critical of the government’s track record on tackling HCAIs at that point. 

Figures from the Health Protection Agency suggest cases of both MRSA and C. difficile are continuing to fall in England.

The latest figures on MRSA bloodstream infections show there were 676 cases during October to December 2008. This represents a 7% decrease on the 725 cases in the previous quarter.

Latest reported C. difficile figures show that between October and December 2008 there were 6,257 cases recorded in patients aged 65 years and over. This represents a fall of 11% in this age group from the previous quarter, when the total was 7,062.

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