Drive sees hospital outbreaks plummet across NHS Lothian

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The number of superbug infections in Lothian hospitals has plummeted, new figures show.

Cases of illnesses such as MRSA and clostridium difficile, or C.diff, have been driven down by an ongoing push to improve basic precautions such as hand washing in hospitals.

The figures issued by Health Protection Scotland show that 40 people were diagnosed with MRSA in NHS Lothian hospitals in 2011, down from 85 the previous year.

The number of people with the related infection, MSSA, went down from 258 to 221 during the same period.

Cases of C.diff among those aged 65 and over dropped from 406 to 278.

Health chiefs said the figures showed that moves to reduce healthcare associated infections (HAIs) in Lothian hospitals were working.

Soaring levels of HAIs across Scotland resulted in the introduction of the Scottish Hand Hygiene Campaign in 2007, and national guidance has been issued for infection prevention and control.

Dr Alison McCallum, director of public health and health policy for NHS Lothian, said: “NHS Lothian welcomes the latest figures which show a continued drop in the number of HAIs recorded throughout Lothian.

“We are committed to patient safety and in reducing the risk to patients, and these figures come as a result of a lot of hard work by our staff.”

She said a variety of tactics had been employed to reduce the infection rate. “We have put a number of measures in place to help us continue to drive down our HAI rates. This includes training, education initiatives aimed at staff and visitors and a focus on hand washing.

“We have improved the availability of hand gel to give staff, patients and visitors the opportunity to clean their hands more regularly.

“We are continuing to work closely with areas which treat a higher proportion of high-risk patients, such as Accident and Emergency, to increase staff vigilance around healthcare associated infections.”

Levels of HAI have dropped across Scotland, news which was welcomed by Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon, who said: “Tackling healthcare associated infections is one of my key priorities and I am pleased to see that the national programme of targeted interventions is having such a positive impact.

“These figures released today show that our efforts to reduce infections are reaping rewards and, overall, we have seen the number of healthcare associated infections fall by a third since 2006.”

Margaret Watt, chairwoman of the Scotland Patients Association, also welcomed the news.

“It’s absolutely fantastic and everybody’s to be congratulated, from the Health Minister to the very smallest of nurses and domestics,” she said.

“Don’t let’s become complacent because all of a sudden we’ve got good marks.”

Healthcare infections in lothian

• Staphylococcus aureus (Includes MRSA):

Includes meticillin resistant S. Aureus (MRSA) and meticililin sensitive S. Aureus (MSSA). S. Aureus bacteria are found in the nasal cavity of about 30 per cent of the healthy population, where they are harmless. HAI infections are often caused by medical procedures which allow the bacteria to infect normally sterile body sites.

Cases of MRSA (annual rates per 1000 bed days)

2010 - 85 (0.106)

2011 - 40 (0.051)

Cases of MSSA

2010 - 258 (0.321)

2011 - 221 (0.284)

Total cases of S. aureus (MRSA+MSSA)

2010 - 343 (0.427)

2011 - 261 (0.335)

• Clostridium difficile infection (CDI):

A bacterium widely found in the gut, where it is harmless - but becomes a major cause of illness and death as a healthcare associated infection. The elderly and people who have previously used antibiotics are at greatest risk. Effects can range from mild diarrhoea to death.

CDI cases in people aged 65 and over

(annual rates per 1000 bed days)

2010 - 406 (0.49)

2011 - 278 (0.34)

CDI cases in people aged 15 - 64 and over

(annual rates per 1000 bed days)

2010 - 153 (0.64)

2011 - 123 (0.53)