Opinion Former Article

Public Health England Figures show a rise in some healthcare associated infections this month: The bugs are getting smarter and we have to be too

Public Health England figures show a rise in healthcare associated infections this month. Infections caused by the organism Staphylococcus aureus (Staph) rose by 2.4%, and worryingly the increase is more prevalent in the resistant strain MRSA. Clostridium difficile (C.diff) increased by 0.1%, often the antibiotics used to treat Staph infections disrupt the healthy bacteria in the gut, so there are often correlations in trends with C.diff and Staph infections.

Measures to bring these infections under control are complex and there is no single intervention that works. Public Health England and the Department of Health have a range of toolkits to help hospitals and other care facilities, but these are only as good as the training that goes with them.

The public also need to be more aware of measures to care for people at home who are vulnerable to infection.

The things that make the most significant impact in containing infection are effective screening and diagnosis, good hand-hygiene for healthcare workers, carers and patients, environmental cleaning, good line-care and good antibiotic prescribing.

We are now seeing the need to make antibiotic prescribing a top priority for training healthcare practitioners, at home, in the community and in hospital. Diagnostic tools and data on the strains of bacteria play a huge role in making targeted treatments effective. Well targeted treatments are more likely to result in better outcomes and make infections less likely to reoccur.

Great progress is being made when we compare the numbers to those of 10 years ago. However, we cannot afford to take our eyes off of the data. Some hospital trusts are doing better than others and those that are not so successful, for whatever reason, need to learn from hospitals that are continuing to respond to the challenge of prevention and control of healthcare associated infections and bringing their infection numbers down. The bugs are getting smarter and we have to be too.

Any infection that could have been avoided is one too many as the impact this has on patients and their families can be both debilitating and in some cases life changing, and sadly, as some members of MRSA Action UK know, can lead to loss of life.

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