28/02/2008

C. Diff Deaths On The Rise

The number of deaths linked to the Clostridium Difficile (C. diff) infection have increased by 72% in England and Wales, according to the latest figures released by the Office of National Statistics.

The figures showed that there were 6,480 death certificates, which mentioned the infection - a severe form of infectious diarrhoea, which usually affects the elderly - an increase of 72% from the previous year.

The infection was cited as the underlying cause of death in around 55% of the cases.

However, it is believed that the increase may be due to more complete reporting on death certificates and doctors being more aware of the infection.

Professor Brian Duerden, Chief Microbiologist at the Department of Health, said: "Since 2006 we have taken significant steps to tackle infections. These include stringent hand-washing guidance for the NHS, a bare below the elbows dress code, putting matrons back in charge of cleanliness on their wards and an ongoing deep clean of every ward. Now MRSA and C difficile infections are falling."

However, Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: "Almost three times as many people are now killed by hospital infections as are killed on hte roads each year.

"The overall scale of infection is unacceptable and the need for a comprehensive infection control strategy, including improved antibiotic prescribing and access to isolation facilities, hand hygiene and cleanliness is paramount."

Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Norman Lamb said: "These figures beg the question of why it took so long for the government to realise the seriousness of deadly infections such as C difficile.

"People have been dying in increasing numbers for years, yet the government did nothing. Now ministers have promised measures that are untested and have been dismissed by experts as gimmicks.

"Recent successes in keeping infection rates down are down to the hard work of NHS staff, who are up against enormous pressure to hit targets while keeping their wards infection-free.

(KMcA)


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