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Crackdown on Dirty Hospitals in UK

part of the rise is due to better reporting.

The Health Protection Agency, which released the figures, said that although the rate of increase had slowed, from 17 per cent the previous year, the results "clearly show the scope for improvement". Cases of MRSA fell slightly with 1,652 bloodstream infections in the last quarter of 2006 but the HPA said it was too soon to tell whether the fall would be sustained.

A senior department of health official admitted in a leaked memo published last January that the Government's target to halve MRSA rates by 2008 might never be met. The latest move follows a pledge by David Nicholson, chief executive of the NHS, to make reducing hospital infections one of his top four priorities for the NHS this year. The Healthcare Commission warned in December 2006 that more than one third of trusts had failed to implement new guidelines on cleanliness.

An earlier survey by the Commission published last year found wide variation among hospitals. Under the Hygiene Code, trusts have 11 compulsory duties to prevent and manage healthcare associated infections. Inspectors will assess the cleanliness of wards, procedures for isolating infected patients, hand washing and the cleaning of equipment. Any trust found in breach of the code will be required to implement an action plan or face a public reprimand. The Commission has a new legal power to issue improvement notices to hospital trusts to enforce the Hygiene code.

Anna Walker, chief executive of the Commission said: "Visits will be unannounced so that we can see the hospital in action. What we want to know is whether trusts are taking infection control seriously. Is it a key part of their day-to-day business and could it effectively manage an outbreak should it occur?" She said most visits would be to hospital trusts, with up to two-thirds being inspected as part of the drive top improve hygiene standards.

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