Last night I hosted an event last night in the House of Lords for delegates from all over Europe attending a conference co-hosted by the Department of Health and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, enabling them to meet Parliamentarians from both Houses (and all Parties) with an interest in tackling healthcare associated infections (HCAIs). The delegates (from just about every EU nation and a number of EU-candidate countries) were those people who in their country are responsible for coordinating policies and programmes to reduce HCAIs.
Until the event, I confess that I had not realised quite how much progress had been made in this country in this area. However, speaking to some of the overseas delegates it was quite clear that as far as they were concerned the conference was not just about exchanging experiences, but was very much about learning how the British NHS had done so well in the last few years.
The UK has a particular interest in tackling HCAIs and the conference was focusing on Meticillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Antibiotic resistance is important because it makes infections harder to treat. MRSA is not a unique UK problem but a concern for most countries.
In 2004, the NHS in England was set the ambitious target of halving the number of MRSA bloodstream infections which was widely believed to be unachievable. In 2007, the NHS was also set the target of reducing Clostridium difficile infections by 30% by March 2010/11.
I was delighted to hear that both of these allegedly unachievable targets have been achieved.
The MRSA target has been exceeded with a national reduction of 66% up to June 2009 from the 2003/04 baseline year. Data for the 12 months up to June 2009 show Clostridium difficile infections in patients aged 2 and over are already down 42% compared to the 2007/08 baseline year.
What was also striking was the enthusiasm of the NHS and Department of Health staff present for the work that they are doing. It is sad that their impressive success is not more widely known.