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Volume 487: debated on Monday 2 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps his Department is taking to reduce levels of MRSA infections in hospitals. (253127)

The Department's strategy for reducing health care associated infections (HCAIs), including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), in the national health service (NHS) is set out in ‘Clean, safe care’, which has already been placed in the Library.

Infection control is one of the five top priorities in the NHS Operating Framework for 2008-09 and MRSA and Clostridium difficile targets to 2010-11 have been set under the Better Care for All Public Service Agreement. Clean, safe care outlines the comprehensive range of measures being employed, backed by £270 million additional investment per year by 2010-11 to tackle HCAIs and improve cleanliness.

Steps include screening all relevant elective admissions to hospitals for MRSA from April 2009, and all emergency admissions by 2010-11; a technology programme designed to accelerate the development and uptake of new technologies to improve infection control; the development of a new national standard for cleanliness in the NHS and a new national minimum standard for MRSA. The Department has re-launched its nationwide antibiotic awareness campaign, and will be launching a HCAI patient awareness campaign in the summer.

These measures should support the NHS to meet their legal requirements on infection control, as set out in the Code of Practice for the Prevention and Control of Healthcare Associated Infections, which has already been placed in the Library. All acute NHS trusts are inspected annually against the code of practice by the Healthcare Commission. From April 2009, the new Care Quality Commission will assess compliance against the code of practice and will have a broader range of powers to ensure high performance in infection control.