BLOODSTREAM INFECTIONS of the antibiotic-resistant bacteria MRSA fell by a third at St George’s Hospital last year, according to new figures published by the Department of Health.

There were 63 infections of MRSA between April 2004 and March 2005, compared to 93 cases in 2003/04.

Dr Aodhan Breathnach, infection control consultant for the hospital, welcomed the figures but warned staff and visitors not to become complacent:

“While today’s figures show a reduction in MRSA infections, we need to bear in mind that there will always be a fluctuation in the number of cases from year to year depending on the mix of patients and the severity of illnesses that we treat.

“Nevertheless, the figures are encouraging but there is a very real danger that staff and visitors will become complacent about hygiene as a result of the progress we have made.

“Sixty-three infections of MRSA may not seem significant when set in the context of 56,000 inpatient admissions in a year, but there is a great deal of work still to do.”

St George’s Hospital has introduced a range of measures in recent years to stop patients acquiring MRSA and other infections while in hospital.

Patients are screened for MRSA on admission from other hospitals and nursing homes. A trust-wide campaign continues to encourage doctors and nurses to clean their hands more often with an alcohol disinfectant gel that has been made available throughout the Trust. The hospital has also established a team of specialist nurses to supervise the safe placing of intravenous lines, which are a known source of infection.

More recently, St George’s appointed a pharmacist to regulate the prescribing of antibiotics to slow the development of drug-resistant organisms.

Dr Breathnach continues:

“Everyone that comes into contact with patients – staff and visitors – can help stop the spread of infection by taking a few simple precautions when they are here, such as cleaning their hands with alcohol gel.

“The alcohol gel is there for everyone to use, so please make use of it.

“We also want to encourage patients to ask their doctors and nurses if they have cleaned their hands if they want the reassurance that everything that can be done is being done to protect them from infection.

“It really is ok to ask. Staff will not be offended if you do.”

Notes to editors

  1. MRSA bloodstream infections at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (by year):

    2001/02 115
    2002/03 75
    2003/04 93
    2004/05 63

    Source: Department of Health

  2. Editors are asked to print the following tips for patients, visitors and members of the public to remember when they visit hospitals:

    How you can keep the hospital free from germs:

    Whenever you visit a friend or relative in hospital, remember the following:

  • Clean your hands with alcohol gel before you enter and leave wards.
  • Do not visit wards if you have diarrhoea, a cold, chickenpox, shingles or an undiagnosed rash.
  • Do not sit on beds.
  • Feel free to ask doctors and nurses if they have cleaned their hands.
  • Put your litter in a bin – don’t drop it on the floor.