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News of the Day ... in Perspective


MRSA, other infections rampant in NHS hospitals in Britain

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is endemic in many British hospitals, and “enormous attempts at control have not stemmed its relentless progress,” stated a 1997 article in the British Medical Journal. Authors suggested that it might be time to stop searching for MRSA because of lack of convincing evidence that it causes greater morbidity than methicillin-sensitive strains (BMJ 1997;314:665, see www.bmj.com).

A year ago the British government’s Health Protection Agency announced that the deaths of 800 patients in England and Wales had been linked to MRSA in 2002, a 15-fold increase in 9 years (The Guardian, Feb 27, 2004). The Agency also stated that one in ten patients was leaving the hospital with an infection acquired there (The Guardian, July 2, 2004). Some NHS doctors chose to have operations in private hospitals because of a lower incidence of infection there (The Observer, June 6, 2004).

Some blame the Blair government, and others blame the privatization of cleaning services instituted by Margaret Thatcher (www.dg.dial.pipex.com/z050117.shtml). ).

Contributors to Web blogs attribute MRSA and other rampant infections such as scabies to filthy conditions in National Health Service hospitals (www.newmediaexplorer.org). Footage collected over three months by two nursing assistants wearing hidden cameras was aired as a documentary on Channel 4, Jan 31, 2005. www.channel4.com/health/microsites/U/undercover_angels/

The film showed a patient’s mattress caked through with blood; most of the patients on one ward sitting in urine and feces; and a flooded patient toilet.

The program was criticized by administrators and nursing organizations. Mark Davies, chief executive of Royal United Hospital, said the documentary was “reality TV gone bad.” A spokeswoman for the Royal College of Nursing said it was “worrying when a people working on wards are focused on making a documentary rather than looking after patients” (The Observer, Jan 30, 2005).

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