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Hospital's MRSA stats disputed

PUBLISHED: 09:31 23 April 2008 | UPDATED: 10:55 03 July 2010

A row has broken out over figures which suggest that one of Norfolk's hospitals has the worst infection rates for MRSA in the east of England.

The James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston has recorded 22 MRSA infections at its testing lab over the last year - nearly double its target of 12.

A row has broken out over figures which suggest that one of Norfolk's hospitals has the worst infection rates for MRSA in the east of England.

The James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston has recorded 22 MRSA infections at its testing lab over the last year - nearly double its target of 12. At the same time it has slashed its rate of another infection, C difficile, which is often hospital acquired, and has one of the best rates in the region.

Great Yarmouth and Waveney Primary Trust (PCT) has produced figures, which will be discussed at its board meeting today, showing that the James Paget has the highest rate of MRSA infection - or bacteraemia, to use the technical term - per patient of 19 hospital trusts in the east of England. But the hospital says that the figures on patient numbers which have been used are too low and therefore its infection rate appears too high.

Nick Coveney, director of nursing and patient services at the James Paget, said: “The figures don't look right. We have contacted the PCT about it.”

He said that the PCT had agreed the figures were wrong and had withdrawn the board paper - but this was disputed by the PCT.

He added: “We recognise that 22 is a high number and we need to reduce it. We are aiming to halve it to 11 over the next year.

“We are delighted with the work we have done around C difficile, and the strategic health authority recently told us our progress has been astonishing.”

He said the hospital was relaunching its anti-MRSA measures, including posters telling people to wash their hands, which have been produced in shocking pink so they stand out.

Despite missing its target the James Paget has cut its MRSA infections year-on-year - they were 27 for 2006-7, 44 the year before and 50 the year before that. None of the last year's cases have contributed to any deaths, according to death certificates.

Although the rates for MRSA and C difficile are often reported together, they are tackled in different ways. C difficile is a bacteria whose spread can be tackled through general cleanliness, while MRSA is more often transmitted through surgical devices like catheters and intravenous drips.

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital appears midway in the MRSA league table for the region's hospitals, though its 31 cases were also above the annual target of 26. The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn has the fourth lowest rate in the region - its seven cases beating the annual target of 12. But infection rates are for all cases tested in each hospital's lab, and therefore include cases acquired in nursing homes and cottage hospitals as well as at the major hospitals.

PCT chief executive Mike Stonard said the trust worked closely with JPH on addressing infection control issues.

“These are a leading priority for both organisations which is why, for example, the PCT is this year funding additional staff with a key role in this area, such as modern matrons.

“The methodology we have used to calculate MRSA bacteraemia rates is the same as the one used by NHS East of England and we are confident that the figures in our board paper are entirely accurate.”

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