Wipe out the su­per­bugs, Lans­ley or­ders hos­pi­tals

Daily Mail - - News - By Ja­son Groves Po­lit­i­cal Cor­re­spon­dent Com­ment – Page 14 j.groves@dai­ly­mail.co.uk

HOS­PI­TALS are to be or­dered to adopt a zero-tol­er­ance ap­proach to tack­ling su­per­bugs in an at­tempt to slash the thou­sands of un­nec­es­sary deaths caused by the in­fec­tions.

In his first speech as Health Sec­re­tary, An­drew Lans­ley said yes­ter­day that all hos­pi­tals should move to­wards erad­i­ca­tion of pre­ventable deaths re­sult­ing from MRSA, C.diff and other su­per­bugs.

One pos­si­bil­ity is that all pa­tients could be rou­tinely tested for MRSA when they ar­rive for treat­ment.

Mr Lans­ley also con­firmed plans to im­pose fi­nan­cial penal­ties on trusts that read­mit pa­tients sent home too soon.

Un­der Labour, emer­gency read­mis­sions in­creased by 50 per cent, but crit­ics fear Mr Lans­ley’s move could back­fire, with hos­pi­tals keep­ing pa­tients in for longer than nec­es­sary sim­ply to avoid the risk of a penalty.

In a speech in East London, the Health Sec-

‘There is no tol­er­a­ble level’

re­tary strongly crit­i­cised the for­mer govern­ment for its seem­ingly end­less string of su­per­bug tar­gets.

‘I have spent too long with too many peo­ple who have lost loved ones to health­care as­so­ci­ated in­fec­tions not to be de­ter­mined to act on this,’ he said. ‘There is no tol­er­a­ble level of pre­ventable in­fec­tions. The only ac­cept­able strat­egy is a zero-tol­er­ance strat­egy.’ Mr Lans­ley sin­gled out the Royal Berk­shire Hos­pi­tal and the South-East Coast NHS, both of which have com­mit­ted them­selves to a zero-tol­er­ance ap­proach. ‘If they can do it, so can oth­ers,’ he said.

Both or­gan­i­sa­tions are in­tro­duc­ing MRSA test­ing for emer­gency ad­mis­sions as well as rou­tine ad­mis­sions. But the Depart­ment for Health was un­able to say last night whether the scheme would be ex­tended na­tion­wide.

Around 3 per cent of peo­ple carry MRSA on their body with­out ill ef­fects. Sim­ple swab tests can pick up the in­fec­tion, which can then be treated.

The Govern­ment has al­ready or­dered the weekly pub­li­ca­tion of MRSA and C.diff in­fec­tion rates for ev­ery hos­pi­tal in the coun­try.

Of­fi­cials are now look­ing at ex­tend­ing the scope of the data to in­clude in­di­vid­ual de­part­ments or even wards, and other bugs.

Hos­pi­tal deaths from su­per­bugs soared un­der Labour de­spite a string of ini­tia­tives to bring in­fec­tion rates down.

In 2008 C.diff was men­tioned as a con­trib­u­tory fac­tor in 5,931 deaths, while MRSA was as­so­ci­ated with 1,230 deaths.

Derek But­ler, of cam­paign group MRSA Ac­tion UK, last night wel­comed Mr Lans­ley’s com­ments, but said more de­tail was needed on how the pol­icy would work.

He also warned that ac­tion to tackle su­per­bugs would have to be ex­tended be­yond hos­pi­tals to GP surg­eries and home care.

Mr Lans­ley also used yes­ter­day’s speech to con­firm plans to tackle emer­gency hos­pi­tal read­mis­sions.

Un­der a scheme to be in­tro­duced next year, hos­pi­tals will not re­ceive fund­ing for the emer­gency treat­ment of pa­tients who have been dis­charged in the pre­vi­ous 30 days.

The move is de­signed to end the scan­dal of 1,500 NHS pa­tients a day be­ing re­turned to hos­pi­tal af­ter ap­par­ently be­ing dis­charged too soon. Mr Lans­ley said Labour’s wait­ing time tar­gets put pres­sure on hos­pi­tals to dis­charge pa­tients too soon to free up beds.

He in­di­cated that hos­pi­tals would re­ceive ad­di­tional fund­ing for en­sur­ing pa­tients re­ceived ap­pro­pri­ate treat­ment in the com­mu­nity fol­low­ing dis­charge.

But crit­ics warned the move might re­sult in ‘un­fore­seen con­se­quences’.

Dr Hamish Mel­drum, of the Bri­tish Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion, said: ‘One risk is that we get a sit­u­a­tion where de­ci­sions about dis­charge are based not on a judg­ment about what is best for the pa­tient, but on an at­tempt to avoid ad­di­tional costs. This could re­sult in pa­tients be­ing kept in hos­pi­tal longer than nec­es­sary.’

The King’s Fund think-tank said the scheme would work only if suf­fi­cient care in the com­mu­nity was made avail­able.

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