By Jenny Hope for the Daily Mail Sponsored:
Updated: 14:55 EDT, 19 August 2009
Stringent hygiene measures were introduced in hospitals following an explosion in the number of superbug cases
The number of deaths linked to the hospital infections MRSA and C.difficile fell last year for the first time, official figures show.
Latest data from the Office for National Statistics showed the number of death certificates mentioning C.diff as a contributory factor was down 29 per cent on 2007 to 5,931.
It is the first fall in mentions of the debilitating stomach bug since records began in 1999.
The number of death certificates mentioning MRSA fell by 23 per cent over the same period, to 1,230 - the second drop running.
But figures covering the past five years put the toll at almost 34,000, with more than 7,000 deaths linked to MRSA and just under 27,000 to C.diff.
Campaigners claimed that was the 'tip of the iceberg', and said there was under-reporting of the infections.
The 2008 figures showed that deaths involving C.diff fell by 27 per cent for men and 30 per cent for women from 2007.
For MRSA, there was a 31 per cent drop among men but only a 13 per cent drop among women.
Derek Butler, chairman of MRSA Action, said the ONS figures were under-reporting the real picture and a study had found many death certificates were wrong.
He said: 'One of our members lost a loved one who had cancer.
'He contracted MRSA in hospital, which prevented him from having chemotherapy that might have helped him live another two years. Yet the death certificate reported only the cancer and made no mention of MRSA.
MRSA (pictured) and C. diff is more likely to kill older patients
‘The Government and the management of the NHS should introduce technologies used by the Dutch to save lives - reducing bed occupancy and providing more isolation facilities and screening. We must not become complacent.'
Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said: 'For any patient to die as a result of MRSA or C.difficile is an absolute tragedy, but these figures do show a move in the right direction.
'Nurses have worked hard to ensure infection rates are reduced, improving the quality of care for all patients.
'However, there is no room for complacency - nurses need to be given the necessary authority and resources to ensure that infection rates continue to fall.'
Chief nursing officer Christine Beasley, said: 'Preventing healthcare-associated infections continues to be a top priority for the Government. While one avoidable infection is one too many, we welcome the reduction in deaths associated with MRSA and C.difficile.'
Shadow health secretary, Andrew Lansley, said: 'Despite the welcome decrease in the last year, there are still an appalling number of people dying from hospital infections - nearly three times as many as are killed on the roads every year.
'These statistics expose Labour's failure. Despite years of repeated warnings, many hospitals are still treating patients in crowded wards and lack basic facilities to isolate patients who have an infection.
'The Conservatives are the only party with a zero tolerance policy to tackle hospital infections.
'We would double the number of single rooms in NHS hospitals so that all patients who need to be isolated can be. We are calling on the Government to do the same.'
Source : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1207619/Official-number-superbug-deaths-falls-30-cent-year-campaigners-say-figures-dont-true-toll.html