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Email: derek.j.butler@mrsaactionuk.net

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Telegragh Article
MRSA screening delay ‘will cost lives’

By Kate Devlin, Medical Correspondent

Last Updated: 2:03am BST 31/03/2008
Plans to screen every hospital patient for MRSA may be delayed by almost a year.

Patient groups are warning that any delay could cost lives. The programme, which will look at patients before they are admitted, was expected to start in March 2009.

It was reported yesterday that officials have put back the launch until the end of next year, and may delay it further if hospitals cannot find the cash for the tests. But the Department of Health last night denied the programme had been postponed.

The measures announced by Gordon Brown, was designed to help reduce the more than 1,000 deaths a year from MRSA a so-called hospital “superbug” that has developed resistance to most or all known antibiotics.

The Prime Minister said that the scheme would start by the beginning of next year, but officials later confirmed they were working towards a March 2009 start date.

The scheme would include the 12 million patients a year admitted for surgery. Tests can determine within two hours whether a person has MRSA, but screening is costly and takes time.

Concern over a possible delay comes only days after the Government announced that nine in 10 hospitals had completed “deep cleans”, designed to cut the number of hospital acquired infections.

Derek Butler, the chairman of the MRSA Action UK group, said: “If there’s a 10-month delay over the screening programme, it will cost lives. There will be infected patients undergoing operations who won’t be identified.”

Studies are under way to determine which hospital superbugs grow in intensive care units. The study, by researchers at Sheffield Hallam University, South Yorks, will be outlined today at a meeting of the Society for General Microbiology in Edinburgh.

Official figures show that more than 8,000 deaths in the UK last year were related to hospital acquired infections such MRSA and Clostridium difficile.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/03/31/nmrsa131.xml



Hospital superbug tests delayed in budget row
Campaigners criticise the NHS’s failure to screen all patients for infections

Jo Revill, Whitehall editor The Observer,
Sunday March 30 2008
updated at 00:01 on March 30 2008
Gordon Brown’s pledge to have every patient screened for MRSA on admission to hospital has been postponed by nearly a year. Health officials fear some hospitals will be unable to tackle superbugs properly without substantial increases in staff and budgets.

The nationwide screening of more than 12 million patients a year who are admitted for surgery was due to begin in January 2009, but officials have now pushed back its launch until the end of next year, and may delay it even further if hospitals cannot find the cash to buy the tests.

Patients’ groups reacted angrily to news of the delay. They claimed that thousands of patients will be admitted for surgery without staff knowing whether they are infected with MRSA or not.

The chairman of the MRSA Action UK group, Derek Butler - whose stepfather died from the infection - described the delay as very serious and very disappointing. ‘If there’s a 10-month delay over the screening programme, it will cost lives. There will be infected patients undergoing operations who won’t be identified.

‘We fail to understand why healthcare-acquired infections are not being prioritised. We know the NHS has a huge budget surplus this year - they have no problem bringing in a national smoking ban, and yet excuse after excuse is made for not tackling this problem.’

This week the government will announce that it has managed to fulfil its pledge to halve the number of MRSA cases, from a high of 21 people infected a day in November 2004, to just over 10 infections a day. A ‘deep-clean’ of each hospital, combined with new measures to ensure that nurses and doctors wash their hands between patients, has led to the fall, although superbugs are still thought to claim around 1,000 lives a year.

But the routine screening of all patients, common in other countries, is proving harder to achieve. In January the Prime Minister - speaking on BBC’s Andrew Marr Show - unveiled plans for health improvements which would include the screening of all patients for MRSA or Clostridium difficile, another superbug, by 2009. The Department of Health later clarified this pledge by saying that elective testing would happen by March 2009. But last week The Observer was told that it would not now take place until the end of 2009.

Britain’s Chief Nurse, Christine Beasley, said: ‘We are making huge progress on tackling the hygiene issue. It won’t be solved overnight, it’s a long haul.

‘In order to do this screening, we have looked very carefully at it to make sure it is effective. You have to know that what you do will work. It does take hospitals a while to get themselves into a position where they are set up to do this.’

She added that most hospitals now routinely screen all patients who have been admitted for orthopaedic surgery, such as hips or knee replacements. There is a rapid test for MRSA now available for hospitals that can tell doctors within two hours whether a patient has the infection or not.

However, this costs more than the usual tests, which can take a couple of days. ‘You can spend a lot of money on these tests, and you have to look at the patients who are most high-risk.’

Most patients are assessed in the month before they are admitted, so that if they are ‘colonised’ with the bacteria doctors can take special precautions during surgery and afterwards. A rapid test would allow staff to test patients who come in as emergencies, where there is little time at present for testing.

Most hospitals in Britain have just completed their ‘deep cleaning’ of wards, a £50m programme to help hospital trusts eradicate the superbugs such as MRSA and C difficile, though some groups have questioned how effective that will have been.

‘We understand that many hospitals, because of the sheer pressure on beds, have been unable to decant patient areas and deep-clean them properly,’ said Geoff Martin, campaigner with the group Health Emergency. ‘Instead they have had a bit of a spring clean around the beds, and that is not what we were promised.

‘Deep-cleaning a hospital environment means decanting patients to another ward, sealing the area and fogging it with a deep cleaning agent that kills off the superbugs wherever they are located.

‘We fear that financial pressures and demand for beds has meant that in many areas the deep clean has been a cursory exercise, ticking boxes rather than doing the job required.’

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2008/mar/30/mrsa.nhs



Patients still at risk from MRSA despite £57m ‘deep clean’

Superbug policy is useless without vital screening process - which is not due to start for another year
By Brian Brady and Jane Merrick
Sunday, 30 March 2008

Thousands of patients will remain at risk from superbugs, despite a £57m “deep clean” of hundreds of hospitals, because a vital screening programme will not be put in place for at least a year.

One of the world’s leading experts on hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) warned yesterday that every one of the hospitals cleaned under Gordon Brown’s flagship health policy will be back to square one as soon as the cleaners finish, because no one is stopping bacteria such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile from coming into the buildings.

Professor Hugh Pennington of Aberdeen University said the deep-clean programme would be “an expensive waste of resources”.

The ward-by-ward cleaning operation was launched last year amid growing concern about a worrying increase in deaths from HAIs including C. difficile and MRSA, which claim more than 5,000 lives a year. Official figures reveal that the number of deaths with MRSA mentioned as an underlying cause rose from 54 in 1993 to 1,652 in 2006.

More than 300 hospitals have until tomorrow to complete the programme, announced by the Prime Minister in his Labour conference speech last September. The Department of Health said yesterday that 306 out of 328 hospital trusts had completed cleaning while the rest were “well on the way to completion”.

The announcement conflicted with a survey of 127 acute trusts, published yesterday, which suggested that two out of three of those in the report had not completed their deep cleans, 15 would not meet the deadline and one did not expect to finish until October.

But the Government was warned yesterday that the operation would be a waste of time, because hospitals will not be obliged to start testing new patients for MRSA for another year. Scientists estimate that 30 per cent of the population carry the MRSA bug.

Despite this, a government target for hospitals to screen all “pre-booked” patients for the disease will not be in force until next March. The deadline for enforcing a more hardline requirement to test all emergency patients is a vague “as soon as possible over the next three years”. Instead, the DoH has ordered a series of measures, including regular hand-washing on wards.

Professor Pennington said: “Politicians get hung up on cleaning, but the major issue isn’t environmental; it is people bringing the bugs into hospitals. Once the bacteria hit the floor they die off. The natural home of MRSA is either in infected patients or up the noses of the rest of us, so that is what they should be attacking.”

The cleaning firms hired for the work have also complained about the management of the programme.

A “hospital cleanliness summit” hosted by the DoH last month was marked by complaints about bureaucracy and resources, primarily from members of the Cleaning and Support Services Association, The Independent on Sunday has established.

Andrew Large, the association’s director general, pointed to “the lack of leadership on cleaning issues within the NHS”, and “the lack of resources for cleaning”.

A DoH spokeswoman said the deep-clean project was never meant to be a “magic bullet” solution to the issue of superbugs. She added: “It is important to patients that they are treated in a clean hospital. That is what they tell us over and over again.”
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/patients-still-at-risk-from-mrsa-despite-pound57m-deep-clean-802612.html


Superbug battle jeopardised as 13 NHS hospitals fail to meet cleaning deadline

Dominic Tobin, The Sunday Times
March 29, 2008
The battle against superbugs could be jeopardised after the government admitted some hospitals will be unable to meet the deadline to deep clean their wards.
The Prime Minister had promised that all wards would be deep cleaned to “industrial standards” by March 31 but Ben Bradshaw, the Health Minister has admitted that around 13 NHS hospitals will not meet the deadline.
The other 170 general hospitals will complete the £60m hygiene blitz by March 31, Mr Bradshaw said.
The national deep clean has been criticised as a publicity stunt to give the impression the NHS is in control despite high levels of superbug infections and deaths.
Antibiotic-resistant MRSA is officially responsible for 7,000 to 8,000 infections a year, and cases of the deadly Clostridium Difficile (C diff) bacteria are put at 55,600 annually. The figures have recently been declining.
However many experts believe the real total for superbug infections is 300,000 a year.
Mark Enright, professor of molecular epidemiology at Imperial College London, thinks MRSA and C diff kill 10,000 a year in the UK.
He said high levels of superbugs in hospitals are increasingly likely to affect healthy people who can pick them up, carry them and then become infected through a superficial injury.
The government’s strategy of a one-off super clean of wards will not have a long-term effect in the fight against hospital infections, according to The Lancet medical journal.
It said Brown was “pandering to populism”, adding that the proven way to stop superbug infections was to make sure that doctors, nurses and visitors washed their hands properly.
There are also concerns about how well the multi-million pound clean was being carried out.
Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act reportedly show that 87 out of 127 hospital trusts had not finished the deep clean, but were planning to do so before the end of March.
“The idea all these hospitals are going to rush to get it all finished over one weekend is a joke,” said Derek Butler, chairman of the charity MRSA Action UK.
“We can’t be confident the deep cleans have been properly done. They haven’t been monitored by the government.
“Some hospitals are saying they did the clean around or between patients, but if a deep clean is meant to be thorough, then surely this means emptying out a ward.
“If they could really clean thoroughly without clearing out wards, then hospitals should be spotless constantly.”
Bradshaw said the independent Healthcare Commission watchdog would now follow up the programme by conducting inspections “to make sure that all hospitals have hygiene and cleanliness policies that are as good as the best.”
Conservative Health Spokesman Andrew Lansley said the deep clean had not been properly funded.
He said hospitals had been forced to cover at least £23m of the cost from other budgets.
Bradshaw said Mr Lansley’s calculations were incorrect.
“We allocated 62 million pounds extra from the regional health authorities and they tell us all of that money has gone to the hospitals,” he said.
Hospitals are due to start MRSA screening of patients coming for non-emergency procedures from April, and for all emergency admissions over the next three years.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article3645853.ece


NHS Deep Clean Target Missed
29 March 2008

Trying to stop people picking up hospital infections like MRSA and C.difficile has been a long-running problem for the Government and is under the political microscope, these organisms are in some of our hospitals, but what’s the best way of tackling the problem?
One of Gordon Brown’s first promises as Prime Minister was to deep clean all NHS hospitals in England ward by ward, from ventilation ducts to ceilings the target was the end of this month. Today the Department of Health says more than 90% of Trusts will achieve Monday’s deadline, and that the rest will make it soon, but health experts aren’t convinced it will make a lasting difference.
Ben Bradshaw MP, Minister of State for Health Services - “We expect 13 out of 170 hospitals to miss Monday’s deadline, only 4 of those don’t expect to finish their deep clean by April and they may have good reasons for this such as undergoing building works, for example. But I think that the important thing to recognise here is that deep cleaning is part of a package of measures which is having a dramatic effect on bringing down infection rates.”
The Conservatives say the exercise is a gimmick, and that some Trusts have had to dip into existing budgets to achieve the target.
Andrew Lansley Shadow Secretary of State for Health - It’s a shambles because quite clearly in many cases, you can see this from the survey reported in the Daily Mail this morning that many of the hospitals are doing this according to the Government’s timetable, many are doing it over this weekend without the wards being empty, they are doing it around patients.

Health experts are also skeptical:

Dr Jodi Lindsay infectious diseases expert - “When this strategy was first announced it was roundly criticised by all the experts, as well as a very influential editorial in The Lancet. The reason it’s not going to work is that MRSA is carried by people and as soon as you deep clean your hospital if you let people back into the hospital again, you are going to have the same MRSA problem”
The Conservatives argue they would be more effectively tackling hospital infections by introducing more isolation units. But Ministers say the Tories figures are bizarre and inaccurate and have promised new specialist cleanliness inspectors to ensure standards are maintained.
Derek Butler Chairman of MRSA Action UK joins us here from Manchester. Derek, good morning to you, do you think this is a pointless exercise from the beginning?
“Good morning, Yes, the first question you must ask is if the Prime Minister is going to deep-clean the hospitals how dirty were the hospitals in the first place? You would have thought that the hospitals would have been in a clean and pristine condition all the time, to have to announce you are going to deep clean the hospitals because you have a problem.”
And a one off deep clean, will this do anything to help with MRSA or C.diff perhaps?
“Initially it will have an impact to a degree, but as the previous person said - the patients, relatives or the staff will take it back in, you must have a thorough process behind the deep clean, including a screening programme for the patients, the staff and the environment in the hospital and other processes and policies in place to stop the bacterium getting back into the wards.”
So do you think the money would have been spent in other areas then?
“I think the money would have been better spent looking at the best practices around the world, the Norwegians have a system that is publicly funded like the NHS, they have the same problems, with limitless supply and demand on services, but limited cash to work with, they have hospitals that are designed very similar to ours, but they have an infection rate 1/80th of ours, because they have brought in a deep-clean and backed it up with a Search and Destroy policy, to keep the bacterium out, looking at better ways of keeping the hospitals clean.”
There will be spot checks once a year for hospitals - is that enough?
“No. In the food industry, and it’s a good example to look at, the food industry itself monitors it’s own environment, and they have regulators to monitor them, now with hospitals all we’ve got is the Healthcare Commission. The Healthcare Commission can monitor it, but how are they going to check they are clean? You can walk into a ward and see that it looks clean, dirt is visible, the things that cause the complications are invisible to the naked eye, that’s the bacterium. Government has no measures in place to monitor after the deep-clean to see how, they never even checked to see how dirty they were in the first place.”
Were organisations such as your consulted by the government before they decided on this process?
“We actually presented the Government with a policy document stating what we think they should do with regard to our hospitals, which is to adopt a “Search and Destroy” policy that the Norwegians, the Scandinavians and other countries such as Sweden, Holland and Denmark have put in place. At our organisation, MRSA Action UK, we recognise that infection is a worldwide problem, and other countries have the problem under control, so this worldwide problem can be controlled.”
Derek Butler, thank you very much indeed.

Times online article
Hospitals to miss ‘deep clean’ deadline

By Patrick Sawer
Last Updated: 8:34am GMT 29/03/2008

Two out of three hospitals have failed to finish “deep cleaning” their wards to eradicate superbugs in time for a deadline set by the Government.
Many are rushing to complete the job by Monday, the date set by Gordon Brown last September.

Several trusts admitted there was some work to be done
The Prime Minister declared he wanted all wards to be cleaned to industrial standards, in a bid to reduce the 8,000 deaths a year caused by superbugs such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile.

But a survey has found that 87 of Britain’s 169 acute hospitals have not yet finished the task and 15 have admitted they will not meet Monday’s deadline.
One even said it was unlikely to complete the task until October.

The survey found that 55 of the 127 trusts who responded had failed to empty or ‘decant’ their wards, implying the deep clean had taken place around the patients, in contravention of good practice.

Details released under freedom of information laws suggested that only a quarter of the £57 million allocated for the programme has reached hospitals, despite a Government pledge to provide funding.

The findings have alarmed patients’ groups, including MRSA Action UK. Its chairman, Derek Butler, said: “We can’t be confident the deep cleans have been properly done.
They haven’t been monitored by the Government.
The idea all these hospitals are going to get it all finished over one weekend is a joke.”

Health Secretary Alan Johnson claimed last night that 93 per cent of trusts would complete the deep clean by Monday and the rest were “well on the way to completion”.
But several admitted there was some way to go before the job was done.
Dr Jim Stone, director of infection prevention and control at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “We have cleared 17 of our 36 designated areas for the deep clean.

We have an ongoing operation which means that by October we will have cleaned all the areas.”

Charles Whitney, of the Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust, admitted: “I don’t think we do decant entire wards to do the deep clean. They pick up furniture, they get chewing gum off seats, they don’t empty the whole room out.

“We are not going to finish on March 31 because it is not our programme to give the hospital a clean sweep, it’s a rolling programme integrated into our regular cleaning programme.”

Luton and Dunstable NHS Foundation Trust said: “We plan to complete our deep clean by the end of May. It is a challenge to clean a ward and move the patients as our hospital is always full.”

Dudley Group of Hospitals NHS Trust said: “A quarter of our programme is completed. It has taken longer than expected. The trust has taken the decision to concentrate on clinically high risk areas in the first instance.

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley described the cleaning programme as a “shambles.”

He said: “If you are going to do a deep clean, then you should do it when a ward is empty of patients.

“That’s going to be extremely difficult for many hospitals - particularly when they’re trying to finish over a single weekend.”

The Department of Health initially denied that ministers had suggested extra money would be provided to cover the £50 million cost of deep cleaning.
But Mr Johnson told MPs ten days ago: “We have provided the funding to each strategic health authority to meet the cost of the deep clean. They are not expected to divert money from other resources to it. We provided the money from the centre.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/03/29/nnhs129.xml



Hospitals admit they will miss deadline on superbug ‘deep clean’
By JAMES CHAPMAN, LUCY BALLINGER and DANIEL BATES -

Last updated at 00:01am on 29th March 2008

Two out of three hospitals have not completed a “deep clean” of their wards just two days before a deadline set by the Government.
Many are scrambling to complete the task by Monday, the date promised by Gordon Brown last September.

The Prime Minister said all wards would be cleared out and cleaned to industrial standard to try to win the war on superbugs such as MRSA and Clostridium Difficile.

This week the Mail asked Britain’s 169 acute hospital trusts if they could meet Mr Brown’s party conference pledge.



4,000 hospital patients a year die from the Clostridium Difficile superbug

Of the 127 that responded, 87 said they had not finished and 15 admitted they would not meet the deadline.

One said it did not expect to finish until October.

Alarmingly, 55 trusts admitted they had neither emptied nor “decanted” their wards, suggesting the “deep clean” has been carried out around patients against best practice.

The Mail’s survey casts doubt on Health Secretary Alan Johnson’s claim last night that 93 per cent of trusts would finish the “deep clean” by Monday and the rest were “well on the way to completion”.

Patients’ groups expressed concern that many hospitals appeared to be “racing” to finish over this weekend and cast doubt over whether such last-minute efforts would really be effective.

Luton and Dunstable Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We plan to complete our deep clean by the end of May. It is a challenge to clean a ward and move the patients as our hospital is always full.”

Dudley Group of Hospitals NHS Trust said: “A quarter of our programme is completed. It has taken longer than expected and accelerated to achieve earliest completion.

“The programme has taken longer than anticipated to clean each ward area. The trust has taken the decision to concentrate on clinically high risk areas in the first instance.”

Dr Jim Stone, director of infection prevention and control at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We have cleared 17 of our 36 designated areas for the deep clean. We have an ongoing operation which means that by October we will have cleaned all the areas.”

But Charles Whitney, of the Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust, admitted: “I don’t think we do decant entire wards to do the deep clean. They pick up furniture, they get chewing gum off seats, they don’t empty the whole room out.

“We are not going to finish on March 31 because it is not our programme to give the hospital a clean sweep, it’s a rolling programme integrated into our regular cleaning programme.”

Caroline Hastie, a spokesman for Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, one of those which has finished, said: “Patients were really co-operative, so we managed to clean around patients and didn’t need to do it ward by ward or bay by bay.”

Details released under freedom of information laws suggested that local hospitals are having to pay £22.8million on the programme themselves despite a Government pledge to provide funding.

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said he was “not confident” in the quality of the programme.

“If you are going to do a deep clean, then you should do it when a ward is empty of patients,” he said.

“That’s going to be extremely difficult for many hospitals - particularly when they’re trying to finish over a single weekend.”

Funding for the programme, he claimed, was a “shambles”.

“It is appalling that Gordon Brown has broken his promise to fund it and the local NHS has ended up footing the bill,” he said.

“Every penny spent on this is a penny taken away from local health priorities.”

Derek Butler, chairman of the charity MRSA Action UK, said: “We can’t be confident the deep cleans have been properly done. They haven’t been monitored by the Government.

“The idea all these hospitals are going to rush to get it all finished over one weekend is a joke.

“The Government also made it clear a deep clean should be thorough and top to bottom. Surely that means emptying a ward?”

The Department of Health initially denied that ministers had ever suggested extra money would be provided to cover the £50million cost of deep cleaning.

But Mr Johnson told MPs ten days ago: “We have provided the funding to each strategic health authority to meet the cost of the deep clean. They are not expected to divert money from other resources to it. We provided the money from the centre.”

A spokesman later said all NHS money “came from the centre” and trusts had used money “sloshing around” in local surpluses.

Mr Johnson said 22 trusts would not meet the deadline but had started their programmes.

“Patients demanded cleaner hospitals and the NHS has responded,” he said.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=548573&in_page_id=1770&ct=5



LESLIE’S £5M MRSA CASH
Campaigners’ outrage at record payout over her ‘ruined career’

By Emily Cook, Mark Jefferies and Graham Brough Emily.Cook@Mirror.Co.Uk 17/01/2008

Men Behaving Badly star Leslie Ash has won an incredible £5million payout for catching a superbug while in hospital.

Leslie, 47, had been expected to pick up around £500,000 after contracting MSSA - a variant of MRSA.

But the NHS compensation body yesterday announced it was forking out 10 times that amount - and setting a new record for superbug awards - because of Leslie’s potential loss of earnings. Leslie yesterday said she was “delighted” - but the huge payout was blasted last night by campaigners.

Derek Butler, of MRSA Action UK, said: “There are an awful lot of people out there that have lost family to MRSA or have suffered themselves who have received far less than that. And in most cases nothing at all.”

But Leslie’s lawyer Janice Gardner said the actress’s career had been wrecked by the bug. She added: “This is a significant settlement which recognises that Leslie has been seriously injured.

“She is delighted the legal action is now over. It’s been an incredible strain.”

Leslie almost died after catching MSSA while being treated for a punctured lung and two broken ribs at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.

She was briefly paralysed from the chest down and still walks with a stick.

Paul Franks, BBC Radio Birmingham & Black Country
The most comprehensive round up of the day’s news and sport, plus travel news to get you home.
Paul Franks talks to Derek about the £5 million compensation for Leslie Ash

Wed 16 Jan
br /> The actress Leslie Ash has won a record £5 million compensation payout after being left seriously by the hospital superbug MSSA, the former Men Behaving Badly star. She was infected while being treated in a hospital in London, this was in 2004 as a result she had to use a wheelchair at first, now she walks with the aid of a stick, in an interview with the BBC three years ago she spoke of her feelings about contracting the illness - “it could have been stopped, someone could have stopped this and they didn’t, and they have got to put up with the consequences, I am angry, this is killing people, there are loads of things that have to be taught to the public before they go into hospital, My God what’s happening, what’s going on?” - Leslie Ash talking to the BBC three years ago, she contracted the superbug MSSA - Derek Butler is from the campaign group MRSA Action UK, Derek good evening.

Good evening.

MSSA is a different bug to MRSA but as I understand it, it’s more treatable even than MRSA, is that right?

It is treatable, but the effects are still the same. If you get MSSA as an infection, it is still a serious infection and can be life threatening.
£5 million is a huge amount of money, is it right and fair in your view?

It all depends on how you look at it, Miss Ash suffered because of the neglect of the hospital that she was being treated in, she’s quite right in what she said, nobody should contract an avoidable healthcare infection. She got it in the epidural which complicated things. But the £5 million in my opinion is a payment that Miss Ash has been awarded, right or wrong, but I believe it was to stop it going into court, because it would set precedence under law.

It was settled out of court it’s supposed obviously to reflect that her career as an actress has been ruined, now what happens Derek in other compensation cases, if you contract MRSA, your stepfather died after contracting MRSA, I gather.

He did.

What’s your story, is there any route for people to take to get compensation, what happens?

People still have the same route as Miss Ash, they can go to a law firm, and there are law firms in the country that will take up the cases of healthcare infections. The sad part about it is that, Miss Ash has the money to be able to take that case to court and to fight it. A lot of people do not have the funds. My family was one, when my stepfather died, we went to a law firm and asked about putting the claim in for compensation for the loss of my stepfather, he was only 54. We were told quite clearly that it could cost anything from between £70,000 and £100,000 to get it into court, and at the end of the day the compensation may be less than what we had actually spent. So there is a disadvantage for people who are affected by healthcare infections, the law says that you can go for compensation and recompense but it’s the actual cost that is the stumbling block.

So that affects the vast majority of people?

It does affect the vast majority. There is another way that you can go towards putting in a claim for compensation, and that is under Health and Safety Law which is a much easier route, and a solicitor called Phil Barnes from Anthony Collins Solicitors in Birmingham actually took up a case, the Kitty Cope case, and he fought that case under COSHH Regulations which come under Health and Safety Law. He did win compensation for that lady.

If Leslie Ash had not settled and it had gone to court, that could have set a precedent for a lot of other people Derek, could it have helped a lot of other people?

Had Leslie Ash had gone into court, and she did say she wanted justice, I suppose at the end of the day she had to think about herself, but had she gone into court and it had gone before a judge and that judge had awarded her £1, just one single pound, and found the hospital guilty of neglect and negligence, it would have set a precedent under law. It’s the one thing that both the Government and the NHS are terrified of. But a good example of how they will fight the cases is, we have a member, she got an infection roughly about the same time as Leslie Ash, it cost the NHSLA £25,000 to fight that case against compensation, and that lady won £750. Now is that really a good use of resources of money in the NHS, I don’t think so.

It doesn’t sound like it does it?

It doesn’t, no.

Derek thanks for joining us tonight, Derek is from the campaign group MRSA Action UK.




Mhairi Stuart talks to Derek

The court of session in Edinburgh is deciding today if a woman can sue a Health Board after she contracted MRSA, the test case involving 71 year-old Elizabeth Miller could open the way for other people who acquired the superbug in hospital to seek compensation. She contracted MRSA 7 years ago when she was having a heart operation in Glasgow’s Royal Infirmary.

“When it started out at first the legal action as far as I was concerned was to try to get the hospitals to buck up their ideas and clean it up a bit. Through the lawyers and with one thing and another they told me that they were going to sue the hospital for money.” - Elizabeth Miller

Well I’m joined now by Derek Butler of MRSA Action UK, good afternoon to you Derek

Good afternoon.

Has this happened elsewhere in the UK, is this really a kind of test case for the whole of the country?

It has happened in the rest of the UK, if the case is being taken on the Health and Safety at Work Act and the COSHH regulations then there are at least three other precedents that have been set, out of court I might add. There isn’t a case that has gone to court and gone in front of a judge.

So from your point of view it could set a precedent if it gets all the way and is heard in front of a judge?

If it gets in front of a judge then it will be the first of its kind and it will set the precedent. It’s a precedent that the Government and the NHS will not want to happen because it will open the floodgates to massive claims in compensation.

When you say massive claims in compensation, what kind of numbers might we be talking about, how many people do we know have contracted MRSA?

Well, the Government itself say that we could be looking at anywhere between 5,000 and 10,000 who contract MRSA, we believe that figure is far, far higher from the contraction of MRSA, the number of deaths is around the 1,000 to 1,300 in England and Wales, Scotland I’m not too sure about the numbers there, but you could be looking at anywhere around 100,000 people contracting MRSA in hospital.

There have been several settlements as you’ve mentioned that we know of so far and HSE fines, what are we talking about in terms of the financial penalty to a Health Board or NHS if they are found liable?

The case in Southampton, that was the Health and Safety Executive took a case of neglect under the Health and Safety at Work Act, which was a breach of Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act for negligence where a young gentleman of 31 died from toxic shock, technically it’s blood poisoning, the hospital itself was, I believe, fined no less than £100,000.

So presumably this is a case that the whole of the NHS is going to be watching very carefully?

It’s a case they are going to watch very carefully, just the same as the Kitty Cope case of three or four years ago in Wales, which was taken on by a gentleman called Phil Barnes who now works for Anthony Collins Solicitors in Birmingham, he settled the case there. We do know that the actual settlement in the papers was for £11,000 but we believe it was for far higher, but it was an undisclosed sum because it was settled out of court so there was a gagging clause on it.

If this does become more common, then what do you hope comes out of it, obviously you are speaking for MRSA Action UK, what do you want to see done?

Professor Pennington who’s from Aberdeen in Scotland who is our President, believes that more could be done to prevent MRSA infections. Because our European partners especially in Northern Scandinavia, The Netherlands and Norway have infection rates of less than 1%, in the UK we are looking at 42% just for MRSA.

So in your view there is no excuse for the levels of MRSA we are seeing, presumably that goes for all things like C.diff?

It goes for all other things like C.diff. The beauty is that the most successful system in the world is the Search and Destroy policy used in The Netherlands, and it was a system we devised in this country 25 years ago, and we abandoned it, yet the Dutch have shown it works and it keeps people safe, people like Elizabeth would not have contracted MRSA in that hospital or their chances would have been so small that it’s virtually impossible.

Derek, thanks very much indeed for that, Derek Butler of MRSA Action UK.

email: info@mrsaactionuk.net

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