Hospital tops the charts for bug-busting

A Norfolk hospital with drastically reduced rates of MRSA was yesterday officially recognised as one of the best hospitals in England in the fight against the superbug.

A Norfolk hospital with drastically reduced rates of MRSA was yesterday officially recognised as one of the best hospitals in England in the fight against the superbug.

Figures released by the Department of Health revealed the Queen Elizabeth Hospital as the NHS trust with the highest rate of improvement in the country, with cases of MRSA falling by 73pc between 2005 and 2006.

The timespan coincides with a clean hospital campaign run by staff and spear-headed by consultant microbiologist Prof Lynne Liebowitz, who has since been seconded to the Department of Health to help other NHS trusts bring down their infection rates.

As with other hospitals keen to cut their MRSA rates, the QEH had a strict hygiene regime that included hand gels for all staff, patients and visitors.

But the appointment in 2005 of Prof Liebowitz saw a re-education clinical staff at the QEH and at GP practices in the area in the way they prescribe antibiotics.

She believes the key to controlling MRSA is to give patients drugs that deal with specific infections rather than those that tackle all bacterium and affect the body's resilience to bugs.

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Together with the cleaning policies, the trust quickly saw a dramatic fall in cases, with 15 cases in April to September 2005 and just 4 in the same period last year.

“Antibiotic guidelines have been introduced, advocating the use of antibiotics least likely to be followed by MRSA infection,” said Prof Liebowitz.

“It's been a case of persuading doctors to prescribe an antibiotic that targets a particular problem rather than using one that kills off all bacteria, good or bad.”

Statistics from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) show the third consecutive reduction in MRSA levels in England - down 5pc from the same period in 2005.

The West Suffolk Hospital has seen a reduction in MRSA in the latest available figures, while the James Paget Hospital has seen no change and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital a slight increase.

Welcoming the national decrease, health minister Lord Hunt reminded the NHS of the tandem challenge of reducing Clostridium difficile (C.diff), which the government announced in December.

A £50m government fund has been set up to help hospitals install new facilities to tackle MRSA and levels of C.diff, with the QEH applying for £300,000 to install new easily cleaned bathrooms throughout the hospital.

MRSA rates in our areaApril 2005-Sept 2005 April 2006-Sept 2006 Change

James Paget Hospital 1414 0

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital 2628 +8pc

Queen Elizabeth Hospital 15 4 -73pc

West Suffolk Hospital1916 -16pc