UK hospitals’ infection rates
UK hospitals are starting to lead the global fight against hospital acquired infections such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile (C. difficile or C. diff) . Infection rates are lower now than in a long time. More recently noted, London’s private hospitals actually report very few MRSA infections and, in many cases, zero infection rates.
MRSA, Methicillin resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus, has caused havoc for many years in all healthcare settings throughout the developed world. Infection rates rose out of control during the 1990s and early 2000s in the UK, across Europe, Canada, the US, Australia and elsewhere. Hospital acquired infections with strains of C. diff were also recognised as a growing serious problem in healthcare settings.
The NHS has brought in new control measures and has worked towards a reduction in overcrowding in hospital wards. This has done a great deal to bring down the UK infection rates. Consequently, the UK is now reporting the lowest rates of MRSA in its NHS hospitals since 2001. Also noted, C. difficile rates of infection are also showing a promising downward trend.
UK infection rates in private hospitals are at their highest in communal wards within NHS hospitals Private patients have their own rooms and the staff-to-patient ratio is generally much higher. Also, in UK private healthcare, more staff are available for cleaning. Many UK private hospitals currently report zero rates of MRSA infection and their infection rates for C. difficile are also minimal.
Reporting UK infection rates
The Health Protection Agency in the UK publishes regular updates of UK infection rates in NHS Trust hospitals and in private hospitals on a regular basis. Current reporting is done every three months but from early 2011, NHS hospitals will have to supply updated UK infection rates on a weekly basis. These will be collated to give monthly, three monthly and annual figures to allow prospective patients to see how UK infection rates are changing over time as well as the current level of risk.
Controlling UK infection rates
All hospitals must now practise much more rigorous hand hygiene using soap and water and hand gel (this is not that effective against C. difficile exclusively). These practices have been the accepted standard in private facilities for many years and is now established policy within the NHS.
The cleanliness of the patient, as well as the clinical areas, is now also made a priority. As in private hospitals, NHS hospitals now screen patients for MRSA when they arrive, or before their admittance for surgery. MRSA can be carried harmlessly on the skin, but can later cause infection in a surgical wound.
The patients who test MRSA positive are isolated and provide with a more aggressive antibiotic therapy during and after their surgery. This reduces the need to treat all patients with high dose of antibiotics which, in turn, contributes to resistant strains becoming more common. The combination of these measures are having a significant effect on UK infection rates, which continue to fall each quarter.
Viral respiratory diseases: MERS and SARS
Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus has reached epidemic proportions in Saudi Arabia. The virus has spread to neighbouring countries, lately. It has also affected patients in Korea and China.
MERS is a virus that is related to SARS, but with a higher morbidity rate (MERS 36 %, SARS < 10 %). To prevent infection of healthcare providers and other patients, MERS patients need to be isolated rapidly.