The 7th May 2015 heralds the second general election MRSA Action UK will experience. In 2010 I said that the General Election was “arguably the most important for a generation”.
Manifestos and policies did indeed focus on reducing the burden of infections in our hospitals with leaders recognising the significance of their impact. And now I argue that this election is even more important for our future generations.
The economy has been a top issue during this election campaign, and economic recovery will dictate how the government will spend public money and future spending on the NHS. Whoever is in charge needs to be clear on economic policy.
Healthcare has been an important issue in every election since the formation of the NHS and in 2005 MRSA and Clostridium difficile infection rates were out of control. MRSA Action UK was born out of this with founding members being personally affected. We campaigned to stop this rise and to reverse the disturbing trend in the thousands of people who were being affected each year.
A decade has seen a decline in the number of recorded infections in our hospitals, however progress is stalling. In December 2014 we saw a spike in the number of MRSA and MSSA bloodstream infections; it is no coincidence that we saw reports of a crisis in our A&E departments at this time. There will be a correlation in patient to staffing ratios and a rise in infections. The number of recorded incidents involving Staphylococcus is not improving.
C.diff has been falling, but improvements are levelling off. Antibiotic prescribing has an enormous role to play in the fight against C.diff, and antimicrobial resistance is posing one of biggest challenges to healthcare in a generation. There is a worldwide trend of bacteria becoming immune to antibiotics.
The public voted antimicrobial resistance as the most important issue last year when BBC One conducted the Longitude Prize Award poll. It is also an issue that our charity is asked about by people who have been screened for MRSA, regardless of the result.
We need strategies to make care safer. This includes strategies to prevent infections occurring outside hospital. There needs to be a national scheme to assess how often healthcare workers are able to wash their hands and an iterative process to focus everyone’s hearts and minds on preventing infections. This is about people’s lives, every infection matters.
MRSA Action UK will be appealing to all the political parties to maintain the momentum that has been achieved in reducing healthcare associated infections, not only those that we measure, such as MRSA bloodstream infections and Clostridium difficile infections, but to give a commitment to ensure other healthcare associated infections are measured and reduced. It is false economy to reduce the focus on infection prevention.
On 5 November 2004 when founding members of our charity and many in the NHS were in despair, Health Secretary John Reid announced a target to halve MRSA bloodstream infections. Cynics said the target was unachievable, we always said it was achievable, and we were right. It is about winning hearts and minds. Patients everywhere require assurance that the culture changes and performance achieved to date will be sustained and not sacrificed to satisfy so called “efficiency savings”.
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