Opinion: Onwards and downwards


As deaths from healthcare-acquired infections continue to decline in England and Wales, it is the small changes that are making the difference

Hilary Ayshford<br> Managing Editor

Hilary Ayshford
Managing Editor

The long-term downward trend in the number of deaths from MRSA and Clostridium difficile in hospitals in England and Wales is continuing.

According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, MRSA deaths last year amounted to 292, a fall of 20% from the 364 recorded in 2011 and a fall of more than 75% since 2008. The number of deaths from C. difficile was also lower at 1,646 compared with 2,053 in 2011. These impressive figures are not the result of some ground-breaking technological innovation such as a new class of antibiotic. Rather they are due to a series of small changes that have culminated in a new awareness of the risks and action to address the problem.

Certainly developments in room decontamination systems have played a role, and quicker, more efficient technologies are emerging regularly.

Similarly, antibacterial materials have shown themselves to be powerful weapons in the fight against the superbugs – from construction materials to curtains and pyjamas to pull-cords. The antibacterial properties of copper have been backed up by new research at the University of Southampton. Hospitals and healthcare facilities are finding that the higher cost is more than offset by the savings achieved through reduced infection rates and shorter hospital stays.

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But perhaps the biggest difference has come from the change in procedures: better pre-admission screening of patients, more robust cleaning regimes, improved bioburden testing and more frequent, monitored hand hygiene. These are small things in isolation, but taken together they add up to a big change in mindset and a great difference to patient outcomes.