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Armed Forces: Health Services

Volume 481: debated on Monday 20 October 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many (a) armed forces personnel and (b) civilians from his Department wounded in operations have contracted (i) methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and (ii) Clostridium difficile while being treated at (A) Headley Court, (B) Selly Oak and (C) other medical facilities in the United Kingdom since 2002. (201031)

The data available in respect of the Birmingham group of hospitals (Selly Oak, Queen Elizabeth, Heartlands, City and Royal Orthopaedic), which have been collated in consultation with the relevant NHS authorities, relate to military in-patients returning from service in Afghanistan or Iraq over the period January 2003 to January 2008. Over that period, available records show that only one patient is known to have become infected with methicillin-resistant Staphyloccocus aureus Bacteraemia while being treated in a Birmingham hospital; 12 patients were infected with Clostridium difficile (including one patient diagnosed twice within a six-week period). All of the patients concerned were members of the armed forces; none was an MOD civilian.

Over the period since 2002 we have no reports of a patient under treatment at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre at Headley Court contracting an infection from either MRSA Bacteraemia or Clostridium difficile during their stay there.

No comparable statistics are readily available in respect of other medical facilities at which armed forces and MOD civilians have been treated. To compile them would involve a trawl of the medical records of all the relevant patient population and subsequent consultation with the microbiology departments of the NHS trusts concerned. This could be done only at disproportionate cost, and with the permission of each individual patient.