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Fight against superbugs must continue

PUBLISHED: 10:49 18 April 2008 | UPDATED: 10:54 03 July 2010

Norfolk's health chief has hailed advances being made in the battle against so-called superbugs such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile (C diff), but warned that the fight must continue.

Norfolk's health chief has hailed advances being made in the battle against so-called superbugs such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile (C diff), but warned that the fight must continue.

“We've made enormous progress across the whole system. MRSA levels are at their lowest level since they have been recorded,” said Dr John Battersby, director of public health for NHS Norfolk, formerly the Norfolk Primary Care Trust (PCT).

Dr Battersby, speaking at a meeting of the Norfolk health scrutiny and overview committee, was quizzed about work to combat the potentially fatal antibiotic-resistant infections.

County councillor Derek Baxter asked him: “Are farm animals were still being given antibiotics in their food? What are we doing to stop doctors prescribing too many antibiotics?”

Dr Battersby said work was being done to review the prescribing of antibiotics and other drugs been linked to C diff.

“With regard to antibiotics in animal food, I'm sure they are. I can't comment in detail on that - that's something that needs a national regulatory approach to deal with.”

He said an ongoing deep-cleaning programme was taking place in the county's hospitals and that the use of alcohol hand-rubs had helped cut infection rates.

But he warned that C-Diff spores were not killed off by the alcohol, adding: “It's important to get people to wash their hands with soap and water as well.”

South Norfolk councillor Alison Thomas, an ex-hospital ward sister, said she had visited a colleague at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital this week.

“I certainly didn't notice any drive towards encouraging visitors to wash their hands,” she added.

The deaths of 18 people at James Paget Hospital (JPH) in Gorleston were linked to C diff between December 2006 and May last year.

The hospital's director of nursing Nick Coveney said an “astonishing improvement” had been made. “We're the best performing trust in this region for C-diff levels, except for Hinchingbrooke, and we recently won an award for the best cleaned hospital in England.”

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