HEALTH: Hospital toll overtakes road deaths

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Hospital infections account for more deaths a year in the UK than road accidents or suicides, it was disclosed yesterday.

At any one time, 10 per cent of hospital in-patients are suffering from an infection contracted since they were admitted. These infections cause 5,000 deaths a year and contribute to a further 15,000.

The findings come in a new book on Hospital Acquired Infections (HAI) published by the Office of Health Economics, which studies the financial aspects of health care. The study finds the most common infections contracted from hospitals are in the urinary tract, surgical wounds and lower respiratory tract. The report's authors, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, say patients who contract an infection in hospital cost the health service an estimated extra pounds 500 to pounds 3,600 per case, mainly through delayed recovery. The total bill to hospitals in England was believed to be pounds 170m, according to a 1993 study. The new report says up to a third of the cases can be prevented.