The Rise and Fall of Infection Rates in British Hospitals

The UK, hospitals are embroiled in an ongoing fight against HAIs, or hospital acquired infections. There are several of these, although the best known are C. difficile and MRSA, and they can cause very severe complications for those patients who contract them while staying in hospital to receive other forms of treatment. The good news is that in the UK, the current rate of infection is still very low, comparing favourably with the rates found in other developed countries. In London’s private hospitals, for example, there are very few cases of MRSA infection, and in some, the level is actually zero.

MRSA (Methicillin resistant strains of Staphylococcus Aureus) have caused a lot of problems in hospitals and healthcare settings around the developed world. Not only the UK, but other European countries, the United States, Australia and Canada too, all so infection rates rising dramatically during the 1990s and into the early 2000s, and C.difficile (clostridium difficile) also began to be recognise as a problem at around the same time.

Over the last few years, new measures have been put in place to ensure that infection rates not only do not continue to rise but actually fall. These measures include reducing overcrowding in NHS hospital wards, and this alone has done a lot to bring the rate of infection down, with the UK now reporting its lowest rate of MRSA in NHS Hospitals since the year 2001, and rates of C.difficile infection also show a promising trend downwards.

Infections In Private Hospitals In The UK

The rate of infection in the UK’s private hospitals never hit the heights of those recorded in the NHS hospitals’ communal wards since private patients are given their own room and there is also a higher staff to patient ratio as well as more cleaning staff available. This is one of the major contributing factors to the fact that UK private hospitals are currently reporting no MRSA infections at all, and very minimal rates for C. Difficile.

Reporting On The UK’s Statistics

In the UK, the Health protection Agency is responsible for publishing regular updates on the rate of infection within NHS Trust hospitals and also in private hospitals and these updates enable prospective patients to see the way in which the rates of infection are changing in their local hospital over time, and the risk that they are currently facing if going into hospital for a procedure. While it is never ideal for any patient to suffer from a serious HAI while in hospital, the current figures show that the numbers of people who are getting these infections are going down and that is very good news, showing that the various measures which have been put in place over the last few years are starting to bear fruit. The NHS is working towards eliminating these so-called Super Bugs completely.

Controlling The Rate of Infection

As UK private hospitals are well ahead of the NHS in fighting C. Difficile, MRSA and other HAIs, it is important to look at the way in which they do things and try to replicate their methods as closely as possible within the NHS. Although there is not the facility to keep every patient in a private room, some of the practices used in private hospitals are now being moved into NHS wards, including the use of more rigorous hand hygiene and the installation of hand sanitation gels for visitors to the wards to use to prevent the spread of germs and bacteria. Higher levels of cleanliness are also now being put into practice, not only in wards but also in public areas around the hospital and in communal bathroom facilities.

Another change which has contributed to the drop in infections is that patients are now routinely screen for MRSA when they are admitted, since MRSA may be harmlessly carried on the skin, however if it enters a wound from surgery, it can cause a serious infection. Patients found to have the infection are treated with a more aggressive antibiotic therapy both during surgery and afterwards too to minimise the chance of infection.

Patients in some trust areas are also tested for the C. difficile infection upon admittance, and there is also much faster identification of patients who are suffering from diarrhoea who are then isolated to prevent the spread of bacteria around the wards. Not only have medical staff been made more aware of the importance of cleanliness in hospitals, but a number of prominent campaigns aimed at hospital visitors to persuade them to wash their hands more frequently when visiting hospitals has proved to be helpful too. When used in conjunction with each other, these methods have gone a long way towards slowing the tide of uncontrollable infection in UK hospitals.