The battle against MRSA infection in NHS hospitals appears to be being won hospital-acquired infection Clostridium Difficileis increasing

The battle against MRSA infection in NHS hospitals appears to be being won, according to new figures from the Health Protection Agency. But the hospital-acquired infection Clostridium Difficile increased by more than 17 per cent over the past year.

The figures reveal that 3,517 cases of MRSA were reported in the six months to March this year, down 2.5 per cent on the previous six months.

The worst-performing trust was Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals trust, which recorded 4.28 cases of MRSA infection for every 10,000 bed days over the past six months.

C Difficile is a potentially fatal infection that particularly affects elderly people and 51,690 cases were reported in the NHS last year. According to the HPA, the worst performing trust was Kettering General Hospital trust, with 5.24 cases for every 10,000 bed days for patients aged over 65.

Managers at Buckingham's Stoke Mandeville Hospital were last week criticised in a Healthcare Commission report into the deaths of 33 patients from C Difficile.

Overall, 334 patients contracted the infection between October 2003 and June 2005, and senior managers at Buckinghamshire Hospitals trust were castigated for not learning the lessons from an early outbreak of the infection, and failing to implement proper isolation for patients who had contracted it.

A source close to the trust, whose chief executive Ruth Harrison resigned earlier this month, said: 'Management appears to have been vilified for delivering government targets and managing its finances... Managers up and down the country will be thinking &Quot;there but for the grace of God&Quot;. Perhaps the government will now take funding for isolation facilities seriously and recognise the impact macho targets can have on care.'