Infection control figures challenged

Hospital cleanliness efforts are being stepped up at present
Hospital cleanliness efforts are being stepped up at present

New statistics out today show strong progress against hospital superbugs, but opposition parties are challenging the figures.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) says the number of cases of MRSA and Clostridium difficile (C.diff) in the third quarter of 2007 fell by 18 per cent on the previous three months.

This puts the government on track to meet its target of halving MRSA infections by the first quarter of 2008/09, the Department of Health says.

Dr Georgia Duckworth, head of the HPA's healthcare-associated infection and antimicrobial resistance department, said the reverse of the "seemingly unstoppable rise" seen throughout the 1990s was a "major achievement" in the face of increasing workloads.

But the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have attacked the government for taking credit for the improvement.

They say the government has moved the goalposts on the original target after using April to June 2004 as the quarter on which the improvement will be measured.

Former health secretary John Reid originally made the pledge in relation to the better-performing period to March 2004.

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley widened his attack on the government, saying there would have been no need for such drastic action "if Labour had taken proper action to fight infections in the first place".

"Screening and isolation facilities would've made a real difference but all we've had from Labour are years of broken promises," he added.

Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Norman Lamb said the government's attempts to take credit for the improved figures were "not credible".

"Recent successes are down to the hard work of NHS staff, who are up against enormous pressure to hit targets while keeping their wards infection-free," he said.

Earlier this month health secretary Alan Johnson announced the government's infection control strategy, freeing up £270 million a year by 2010/11 to improve cleanliness in Britain's hospitals.

Health minister Ann Keen said today: "We will always maintain a strong focus on infections.

"The NHS will receive hundreds of millions of pounds of extra investment over the next three years to tackle infections, as well as clear directions on where to spend it."


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