Intended for healthcare professionals


MRSA infections rose by 5% between 2003 and 2004

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 15 July 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:131
  1. Caroline White
  1. London

    Figures released this week from the government's mandatory reporting scheme on Staphylococcus aureus bacteraemia infections acquired in hospital show an increase of almost 8% between 2001-2 and 2003-4, from 17 933 to 19 311.

    Forty per cent of the 19 311 infections in 2003-4 were methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), making the United Kingdom's rate one of the worst in Europe. The number of MRSA infections alone rose by almost 5% between 2003 and 2004.

    These findings, which come from the Health Protection Agency, follow a report from the spending watchdog, the National Audit Office, which criticises the government's tardiness in implementing a national mandatory surveillance programme.

    Four years after publication of its first report on hospital infections the watchdog found that implementation of its original recommendations had been “patchy,” despite policy guidance from the Department of Health.

    Increased resistance to antibiotics, greater demands on infection control teams, and greater throughput of patients, resulting in higher than recommended levels of bed occupancy, have made the problem difficult to contain, the report notes.

    But it contends: “A major change is required so that everyone accepts personal responsibility,” and recommends that the government do more to convince NHS commissioners of the importance of infection control.

    Among the raft of recommendations is that consideration be given to publishing hospital infection rates as part of the plan to increase patients' choice, which was included in the government's plans to tackle hospital hygiene and MRSA, announced earlier this week by the health secretary, John Reid, in a separate Department of Health report.

    Other measures include consistent national standards on infection control, a target for cutting MRSA, and putting matrons in charge of cleaning staff. Patients will also be involved in monitoring hygiene.

    Pat Troop, chief executive of the Health Protection Agency, said that the most effective way of controlling and preventing infection was “through early detection and appropriate isolation and treatment.” Good hand hygiene was essential to prevent cross infection, she said.


    • The National Audit Office's report, Improving Patient Care by Reducing the Risk of Hospital Acquired Infection: A Progress Report, is available at

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