5,000 Die Every Year
From Infections Caught
In British Hospitals
LONDON (AFP) - As many as 5,000 people a year are dying from infections they catch while in hospital in Britain, according to an official report released Thursday.
Inadequate hand-washing -- especially by doctors -- and unsanitary conditions were cited among the causes of the infections in the report by the National Audit Office (NAO).
The report, based on a study of 219 acute-care hospitals, said stricter hygiene controls and better procedures for managing the spread of infection could reduce the rate of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) by 15 percent.
Treating HAIs costs the National Health Service about one billion pounds (1.6 billion dollars) a year in England, the report found.
A further 15,000 deaths could be partly attributable to HAIs, according to some estimates.
David Davis, chairman of Parliament's Committee of Public Accounts, said: "Of course, some level of infection is inevitable but there are simple things that some hospitals do not get right. There is no excuse for poor hand-washing practice where doctors seem to be the worst culprits. More generally, at too many hospitals the problem is not taken seriously enough."
More than 100,000 people a year are being infected by potentially fatal bugs they pick up while being treated in hospital, the NAO study found.
Increasing resistance to antibiotics by "superbugs" is part of the problem, but some hospitals are not doing enough to prevent infections, experts said.
At any one time, nine percent of patients are suffering from an HAI, which can add to the length of stay and affect treatment of their original condition.
The most common bugs are urinary tract infections, which often follow invasive surgery.
Potentially deadly bacteria may also infect surgical wounds, skin and the bloodstream.
Strains of the superbug Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureushave become more virulent and easier to catch, with outbreaks increasingly frequent in Britain's hospitals as a result of over-reliance on antibiotics.
The baterium is harmless unless it enters the body through a surgical wound, where it can cause blood poisoning and pneumonia.
The NAO report criticized hospitals for failing to allocate funds to protect against infection, saying that death rates can be up to three times higher where such spending is inadequate.
Costs of treating HAIs far outweigh expenditure on preventing them, the report said, citing the Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Hospital Trust in London where two extra nurses were hired to concentrate on infection control, resulting in savings of one million pounds (1.6 million dollars) a year.
One-fifth of NHS Trusts do not have an infection control programme and only 40 percent have a designated budget for HAIs, the report said, stressing that control measures vary widely from one hospital to another.
Sir John Bourn, head of the National Audit Office, made 29 recommendations for reducing infection, including improving control programmes and staffing levels.


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