Signs of victory in war on bugs

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Hospitals appear to be winning the war on infectious diseases that have blighted wards.

Fewer people are dying from MRSA and Clostridium difficile (C.diff) following a crackdown on hospital germs.

Statistics released by the Registrar General reveal that C.diff-related deaths have fallen nationally by 37 per cent between 2010 and 2011, while total MRSA-related deaths have fallen by 47 per cent during the same period.

The figures were good news for the district’s flagship Forth Valley Royal hospital. No MRSA-related deaths were recorded during its first year of operation. One MRSA-related death occurred at Stirling Royal Infirmary in the same period.

The picture is equally good for other NHS Forth Valley hospitals. The number of fatalities in the area linked to the disease, which is caused by bacteria immune to most antibiotics, has fallen from a peak of 14 in 2009.

There has also been a big drop in the number of deaths related to C.diff. Five fatalities linked to the bug occurred at Forth Valley Royal in 2011, with three taking place at Stirling Royal.

In contrast, there was a total of 59 C.diff-related deaths in Forth Valley hospitals in 2008 - with 24 of that number taking place at the now-demolished Falkirk Royal Infirmary.

The figures were welcomed by Falkirk West MSP and public health minister Michael Matheson.

He said: “These figures show the efforts of NHS staff to drive down infection rates are paying off.

“It’s vital that patients have confidence in the quality of care and treatment they will receive if they need to go into hospital and this confidence should not be undermined by the fear of contracting an infection.

“While we have made significant progress in this area, there is always more to be done, and staff, patients and visitors all have a role to play in making sure good standards of cleanliness and hand hygiene are maintained as we continue our drive to reduce these infections.”

Meanwhile, the number of deaths caused by the ‘big three’ - cancer, heart disease and strokes - has fallen nationally. Coronary heart disease was responsible for 29 per cent of all deaths in 1980-82. In 2011 this figure fell to 14 per cent.