Published: 01/09/2005, Volume II5, No. 5971 Page 21
In July, the NHS paid 'substantial' damages to Kitty Cope (right), an 87-year-old patient who contracted methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) at the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend, Wales, after a hip replacement in 2001.
The case was a landmark, because there was an admission that the contraction was avoidable.
How can hospitals minimise similar claims? Prevention is better than cure. The government's legislative proposals - consultation closes on 23 September - attempt to tackle this with four key components:
a code of practice on the prevention and control of infections;
a duty on NHS bodies to follow the code, and one on the Healthcare Commission to assess compliance;
power for the commission to issue an improvement notice;
sanctions against those who breach the code.
Leading microbiologists have already made the following recommendations for hospitals:
appoint a multidisciplinary infection control team;
screen patients and staff;
treat MRSA patients and carriers in single-occupancy units, using separate, specialist staff;
avoid moving patients - patients of individual medical and surgical teams should be kept together;
restrict movement of staff;
implement laundry contracts in accordance with 1970 guidelines for separating soiled and clean laundry;
continue training in the principles of infection for all staff;
issue infection control guidelines;
control hand-washing and cleaning.
Christopher Malla is a partner at law firm Kennedys. The Action on Health Care-Associated Infections in England consultation document is available at www. dh. gov. uk/Consultations/fs/en.
c. malla@kennedys-law. com