NHS has no data on 80 per cent of hospital bugs

The Government has no idea how many people are dying from hospital bugs other than MRSA and Clostridium difficile (C. diff) despite evidence they are on the rise, an MPs' report says.

Ministers have chosen to ignore two previous recommendations to monitor all infections linked to healthcare, including avoidable surgical-site infections and pneumonias, said the Commons Public Accounts Committee.

Its chairman, Edward Leigh, praised efforts that have led to a fall in the number of people suffering MRSA and C diff but said there was still no robust data on the extent and risks of at least 80 per cent of bugs linked to hospital care.

The report is the third from the committee on the issue of hospital-associated infections.

Mr Leigh, who is Tory MP for Gainsborough, said: "Healthcare-associated infections cost the NHS more than £1 billion per year and can lead to serious disability and in some cases death.

"This is the third time that this Committee has reported on the subject and it is disappointing that the Department of Health still has not taken on board a number of key recommendations.

"There has been progress. The Department has achieved significant reductions in MRSA bloodstream and Clostridium difficile infections, for which it set national targets.

"But, in so doing, it has taken its eye off the ball regarding all other healthcare-associated infections - which actually constitute most by far (four-fifths) of all infections.

"The best available evidence is that other - just as deadly but also avoidable - infections, such as surgical site infections and pneumonias, have increased."

Mr Leigh said progress was being hit by a lack of decent data.

"The Department is refusing to introduce mandatory surveillance of all hospital acquired infections - as we have recommended twice.

"If it had, it would now have a better grip on what is going on and be able to reduce the risks of patients getting these infections."

MPs used the report to renew their calls for an electronic prescribing system to ensure antibiotics are being used effectively.

Prescribing the drugs unnecessarily for common ailments like coughs and colds is leading to a rise in the number of infections resistant to antibiotics.

In 2000, a predecessor Public Accounts Committee said the NHS did not have a grip on the extent and costs of hospital infections and needed robust data.

In 2005, the most recent Committee found progress in improving infection prevention and control had been patchy.

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