MRSA league figures misleading

The Queen Victoria hospital NHS trust a specialist hospital topped the league table for rates of MRSA infection but attacked the figures as "misleading" claiming they "grossly misrepresent" the hospital's infection control record.

The hospital in West Sussex was listed as the hospital with the worst prevalence rate in the country for MRSA infections, in figures published today on the Department of Health website.

The hospital claims the figures are inaccurate - and that the patients listed in the table were not infected at the hospital but instead were reinfected or transferred from elsewhere.

Although the number of MRSA cases appears to be dropping, significant variations can be seen, with hospitals delivering specialist care more likely to have higher prevalence rates. Brighton and Sussex University hospitals NHS trust and University Hospital Birmingham NHS trust follow hot on the heels of Queen Victoria with the 2nd & 3rd worst figures.

However there are greater numbers of vulnerable patients undertaking more invasive and high risk specialist care in these hospitals. They are more vulnerable to infection, and higher MRSA rates are to be expected.

Speciality hospital trusts deliver specialist services to patients referred from other trusts. But the MRSA rate league table ranks hospitals according to the number of patients infected by MRSA for every thousand bed days. The kind of service delivered is not taken into account.

The overall number of MRSA (methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus) cases in England fell by to 3,519 for the April-September 2004 period, down from 3,744 over the same period last year and while Queen Victoria hospital was recorded as having only five MRSA cases reported in the first and second quarter of last year, its prevalence rate was the worst at 0.38 cases per thousand bed days.

The number of MRSA cases reported by Brighton and Sussex University NHS trust and University Birmingham NHS trust was far higher, at 70 and 65 respectively, but this reflected a nominally lower prevalence rate of 0.37 per thousand bed days.

The Queen Victoria hospital in challenging the figures, claims that three, not five, patients in question had the superbug, and they contracted that before being admitted for specialist treatment. Two of the patients concerned became reinfected. "Not a single patient was therefore infected with MRSA at QVH," a statement issued today said.

It was also stressed that the high prevalence rate was in part due to the size of the trust (130 beds) and its low bed occupancy.

"The Queen Victoria hospital NHS foundation trust in East Grinstead has an excellent record in the management of hospital acquired infections," the statement read. "These new statistics, which have been in the public domain since November 2004, are misleading and grossly represent this record."

The government also warns against comparing hospitals for the same reason.

More figures published last week by the National Audit Office revealed that the number of deaths through MRSA had doubled over the past four years.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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