Opinion Former Article

MRSA Action UK: Reductions in healthcare associated infections plateau as less frequent reporting is proposed

For the first time since the increased frequency in reporting of the superbugs MRSA and Clostridium difficile in 2009, there has been a slowing in the reduction of healthcare associated infections nationally.  The proportion of the 1,513 MRSA cases acquired in hospital did not reduce, and even more concerning, the 25,157 cases of Clostridium difficile showed that cases in the community had increased by 3.6% over the 13-month period September 2011 to September 2012 compared to the previous 13-month period.

Increased publication of figures split by hospital on a weekly basis enabled patients to evaluate up-to-date information when considering where they choose to go for surgery. Being able to see the information published on a weekly basis provides transparency.

Earlier this year the Department of Health heralded our view that transparency of information is important in encouraging NHS service providers to continue to reduce avoidable healthcare associated infections.  We were heartened by the improved regular reporting of infections on a hospital basis, and although there are gaps in the information that is published, this was a great improvement on the reporting that had previously taken place on a quarterly basis, and then only by Hospital Trust.

We will be discussing the importance of continuing to publish this data with the Department of Health this month. The data capture systems are in situ and we believe the proposal to reduce the reporting of data that is available to the Health Protection Agency is counter-productive.  We remain convinced that having this data in the public domain helps to reinforce the work that has been put into driving down these infections.

The argument being presented by the Department of Health is that the information on MRSA and Clostridium difficile should only be available on a monthly basis as the latest data is often not signed off by Chief Executive Officers.  We believe the Chief Executive Officers need to make this more of a priority and that slackening the timescale for reporting could lead to laissez faire management, where infection prevention is allowed to slip.

Whilst we recognise that resources are needed to be able to focus on wider reporting, and we welcome the focus that is needed on surgical site infections, we do not accept that less frequent publishing of the data will free up resources to do this when the data capture systems already exist, particularly when the trends in MRSA and Clostridium difficile could be turning.

Patients and carers make use of the data published by the Health Protection Agency and contact us regarding information that is published. We pride ourselves in the service we provide and the information that we make available. Our information is clear and meets the rigorous requirements of the Department of Health’s flagship accreditation, The Information Standard.  We believe the Department of Health should lead by its own flagship example, and continue to publish the data on a weekly basis and improve the data that is available.

If resources are a problem then the Department of Health need to be talking to Ministers about the focus that is needed to continue to reduce the burden of healthcare associated infections.  Saving lives and saving costs associated with treating patients with infections will ultimately bring savings to the NHS.

For more information and source data visit the Health Protection Agency website

Derek Butler
MRSA Action UK
email: derek.butler@mrsaactionuk.net
telephone: 07762 741114

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