Record number of patients catch infections in hospitals
The number of patients who contracted life threatening infections in NHS hospitals has almost doubled in two years to a record level, official figures have shown.Recorded cases of patients with a “nosocomial condition” – any infection acquired in hospital or a medical environment – also rose by more than a third last year compared with the year before.
A large proportion of the patients involved were aged over 75, the figures from the NHS Information Centre show. Illnesses related to such infections led to average stays in hospital last year of 31.1 days.
Experts blamed poor hygiene for the dramatic rise in infections, including superbugs MRSA and Clostridium difficile (C. diff) as well as norovirus and E.coli.
But the Department of Health dismissed the “misleading” figures, published online, saying that officials have “got better and better at tackling hospital infections”.
According to the new figures, supplied by NHS hospitals, the number of patients found by consultants to have hospital acquired infections rose last year reached a record 42,712.
That figure increased from the 31,447 recorded in the previous year and almost double the 22,448 documented in 2008/09.
Last year’s figures were the highest levels recorded in the 13 years in which the records have been publicly available. In 1998/99 there were just 335 such cases. The Centre did not provide a breakdown of illnesses.
It came as the Health Protection Agency said that there were 46 suspected outbreaks of norovirus in hospitals over the past two weeks, with more than half leading to ward closures or admissions restrictions.
The agency said the levels were within seasonal norms.
Commenting on the overall infection levels Joyce Robins, co-director of Patient Concern, said the figures were a “terrifying prospect for vulnerable elderly people who think they are going into hospital to get better”.
“It contrasts sharply with the happy propaganda that has been telling us that infection rates had dropped sharply,” she said.
A DoH spokesman said: “The NHS has got better and better at tackling hospital infections, demonstrated by the record lows we have seen this year.
“Because we are not complacent, we have introduced mandatory reporting of more hospital infections. That means that we have shone a light on the problems previously swept under the carpet. But patients should be confident that the measures we have taken will continue the downward trend in hospital infections.”
Tags: Accident and Emergency, Doctors, Health, Health Direct, Health Professionals, MRSA, NHS Deaths, Patients' Association, superbugs