Controlling antibiotics in farm practice, both animals and chicken feeds, is most important …. and almost certainly more important than restricting their use in humans. Evidence from countries where antibiotics can be bought over the counter suggests that human overuse is relatively less important than agricultural feed use. Mr Hunt rightly wishes to address post-operative infection rates – so why did successive governments ignore the Oxford originating Orthopaedic report in the 1980s. This recommended a countrywide network of cold orthopaedic hospitals, but the opposite has occurred, with orthopaedic patients recovering on general surgical wards. This along with over-occupancy is a recipe for cross infections.
Hospitals in the NHS will be obliged to reveal their rates of E coli on whiteboards in wards as part of a war on superbugs.
The move is one of a number of measures that Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, will announce this week to fight the infection, which killed 5,500 NHS patients last year.
These include publishing E coli rates for each local area so the NHS regulator, the Care Quality Commission, can take action against organisations that fail to reduce infections.
For the first time the NHS will publish information about how often doctors and nurses clean their hands by measuring the amount of alcohol-based hand gel their hospital uses.
The hospitals that make the most progress in reducing infections will be rewarded with a share of a £45m fund. Hunt will say that while the NHS has done well to reduce rates of the other two main superbugs — MRSA and C difficile — E coli has increased by a fifth in the past five years.
E coli can cause respiratory, urinary tract and surgical site infections, all of which can progress to life-threatening sepsis (blood poisoning).
Hunt will tell an infection control summit this week: “Over the past year we have had over 38,000 E coli bloodstream infections. The Sepsis Trust estimates that there are currently 150,000 cases of sepsis every year.
“Even worse, some of these infections are completely unresponsive to modern antibiotics. Post-surgical infections are also too frequent.”
A third of E coli infections are now resistant to antibiotics and people infected with a resistant strain are twice as likely to die as those who pick up a non-resistant strain.
Hunt will also launch a £60m fund to cut post-surgery infection rates, some cases of which cost the NHS £100,000 each to deal with.
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