'Hats must come off for the clever combining of deficit and superbug'

There seem to be three subjects associated with the NHS that are guaranteed a decent spread of headlines.

Superbugs are one, deficits are another and cancer drugs are most certainly a third. All three got a mention this week, but superbugs were dominant.

MRSA reared its head when the Journal of Hospital Infectionrevealed that doctors and nurses are still failing to wash their hands after touching infected patients.

But the Hertfordshire University study was trumped by Royal College of Nursing outgoing general secretary chief Beverly Malone.

She claimed that the sacking of nurses would lead to a rise in MRSA and its scary sister superbug Clostridium difficile(hats must come off, however, for the clever combining of deficit and superbug).

But superbug story of the week award must go to The Independent's Jeremy Laurance. After two rejections to Freedom of Information Act requests, Mr Laurance finally obtained the information he was after via a leaked copy of a government 'internal policy review' that reveals a direct causal link between high hospital occupancy rates and increased incidence of MRSA.

The review says that the 'most crowded hospitals with bed occupancy rates of over 90 per cent have MRSA rates that are over 42 per cent higher than average'.

Mr Laurance reports that the review recommends that a maximum bed occupancy rate of 85 per cent should be imposed on all trusts to 'save 1,000 cases of MRSA a year'.

Mary-Louise Harding