Death toll from MRSA hospital bugs hits new high
Between 2004 and 2007 there were more than 20,000 deaths linked to C. diff and more than 6,000 associated with MRSA.
Data from the Office for National Statistics covering 2004 to 2008 shows record numbers of deaths linked to the superbugs in England and Wales.
Opposition politicians said the labour Government had allowed “a horrifying death toll” because of its “slow and sloppy” response to spiralling levels of infection in NHS hospitals.
Official data shows a doubling in the death toll linked to MRSA during the period 2004 to 2007, compared with the previous four years, and a quadrupling in deaths linked to C. diff, when two sets of three-year figures are compared.
Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat health spokesman, said: “These figures describe an absolutely horrifying death toll, and many of these people have lost their lives because of infections which could have been avoided if firm action on infection had been taken a long time ago”.
Annual deaths linked to MRSA quadrupled between 1997 and 2007, while those associated with C. diff quadrupled between 2004 and 2007, figures show.
Katherine Murphy, from the Patients Association, said the statistics showed the gulf between “flowery” Government rhetoric about a war on infection, and poor hygiene which had been allowed to continue unchecked.
“The NHS has been told to put other targets ahead of safety, and this is the inevitable outcome,” she added.
Infection experts have repeatedly warned that assessments based on the number of death certificates which record the presence of MRSA and C. diff are likely to underestimate the scale of the problem, because doctors are reluctant to admit that basic infections have caused fatalities.
Earlier figures published by the ONS have shown that the worst hospital for C. diff deaths in England or Wales was the Royal United Hospital in Bath, which had 268 deaths from the infection between 2002 and 2006.
The George Eliot hospital in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, the Walsgrave Hospital in Coventry and the Royal Infirmary in Leicester all had more than 200 deaths caused by the infection over the same period.
The worst-ever outbreak of C. diff in this country occurred between 2004 and 2006 at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, where the bug was linked to the deaths of 331 patients.
More than 5,000 people have backed The Sunday Telegraph’s Heal Our Hospitals campaign, which is calling for a review of hospital targets to make sure they work to improve quality of care.