Scottish Government
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Healthcare associated infections

Latest figures show that 248 people in Scotland died in 2008 where Clostridium difficile was the main cause of death, while there were 48 deaths due to MRSA.

According to the figures, the number of deaths where C.diff was the main cause of death fell steadily throughout 2008, from 75 in the first quarter to 42 in the last.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said that, while the overall number of deaths linked to C.diff was higher in 2008 than 2007, the downward trend showed that new infection control measures were taking effect.

Today's validated statistics from the General Register Office for Scotland (GROS) also show that the number of MRSA-related deaths was seven per cent lower in 2008 than 2007.

Key points from the GROS statistics:

  • In 2008, there were 248 deaths in which C.diff was the underlying (main) cause. This was an increase of 28 (12.7 per cent) on 2007
  • These deaths decreased from 75 in the first quarter of 2008 to 42 in the last quarter of the year
  • There were 517 deaths where C.diff was mentioned on the death certificate as a contributory factor - an increase of 140 (37.1 per cent) on the previous year
  • These deaths decreased from 150 in the first quarter to 120 in the final quarter of the year
  • There were 48 deaths where MRSA was the underlying (main) cause - down eight (14.3 per cent) from 2007
  • There were 166 deaths where MRSA was mentioned on the death certificate as a contributory factor - down eight (4.6 per cent) from 2007

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said:

"Tackling so-called superbugs like C.diff and MRSA is a huge challenge but it's vital we make progress to ensure people have confidence in the quality of care they receive.

"While the overall number of deaths linked to C.diff rose in 2008, it is encouraging that the number fell steadily throughout the year. More specifically, comparing the last quarter in 2008 to that of 2007 the drop is nearly 30 per cent.

"As expected, in many ways the death rates mirror the infection rates which peaked in the first half of 2008. Since then, infection rates have fallen steadily and are now at their lowest level since monitoring began.

"These facts give us cautious grounds for optimism - but we can never be complacent.

"That's why tackling hospital infections remains a priority. Everyone - staff, patients and visitors - has a role to play in making sure good standards of cleanliness and hand hygiene are maintained as we continue our drive to stamp out these bugs."

The number of deaths where C.diff was the main (underlying) cause of death in 2008 is as follows:

Quarter 1 - 75

Quarter 2 - 75

Quarter 3 - 56

Quarter 4 - 42

The number of deaths where C.diff was a contributory cause of death in 2008 is as follows:

Quarter 1 - 150

Quarter 2 - 121

Quarter 3 - 126

Quarter 4 - 120

Infection rates for C.diff from 2007 are as follows:

2007

Quarter 1 - 1,775

Quarter 2 - 1,588

Quarter 3 - 1,459

Quarter 4 - 1,608

2008

Quarter 1 - 1,861

Quarter 2 - 1,732

Quarter 3 - 1,433

Quarter 4 - 1,299

2009

Quarter 1 - 1,152

The Scottish Government is investing £54 million over three years in a range of initiatives designed to tackle HAIs. This represents a 260 per cent increase in funding on the previous three years.

These include a national MRSA screening programme to be rolled out from January 2010, a new national target to reduce C.diff in the 65 plus age group by at least 30 per cent by March 2011, prudent prescribing of antibiotics, zero tolerance on non-compliance with hand hygiene procedures and a Healthcare Environment Inspectorate to carry out unannounced inspections of hospitals.

All NHS Boards are now required to publicly report hospital level performance in a range of areas, including MRSA and C.diff rates, hand hygiene and environmental cleaning. From later this year, these reports will also be used to capture data on deaths attributable to either C.diff or MRSA, and will serve to provide as close to real time data as is possible.

Following a Health Protection Scotland investigation in 2008, commissioned by the Scottish Government, some health boards revised their guidance to doctors on the completion of death certificates. This was done to reduce the number of occasions on which C.diff is mentioned in the wrong part of the death certificate. Because of this, statistics for 2008 are not directly comparable to those for 2007 and earlier years.

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