Lawyers report rise in hospital superbug claims

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Hospitals face a flood of medical negligence claims from patients who contract MRSA amid growing indignation about the apparent incapability of the NHS to deal with the disease, which kills 5,000 patients a year.

Hospitals face a flood of medical negligence claims from patients who contract MRSA amid growing indignation about the apparent incapability of the NHS to deal with the disease, which kills 5,000 patients a year.

Two prominent personal injury legal firms said they had taken instruction from 70 patients and one was getting six new inquiries a week. In the whole of 2000-01, the last period for which figures are available, only 45 cases were pursued. A total of £2.6m was paid in compensation to MRSA patients or their families between 2000 and 2003. All were settled out of court.

Ian Cohen, a Liverpool personal injury lawyer, said the government model of how hospitals should be cleaned could increase the claims by providing a new measure of competence against which lawyers could test hospitals.

Medical negligence is often difficult to prove; a patient cannot be proved to have developed an infection from a hospital just because the ward is unclean.

An inquest in North Wales was told that Nigel Pritchard, 57, who went to hospital for injections for arthritis, caught MRSA and died within a week.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, the coroner said: "The evidence of the pathologist supports the conclusion that the infection came from the injections at the hospital. It is up to you if you take this further."

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