On the agenda: Hospital bug deaths shoot up

In a nutshell

Hospital bug: 28 per cent rise
Hospital bug: 28 per cent rise

The number of deaths involving the hospital bug clostridium difficile in England and Wales rose by 28 per cent between 2006 and 2007, official figures released last week show. The Office for National Statistics data reports clostridium difficile was mentioned on 8,324 death certificates compared with 6,480 in the previous year.

Why has the number risen so sharply?

The Office for National Statistics has said some of the increase may be due to more complete reporting on death certificates after the Government called for more accurate classification in 2005.

Media coverage

The story was picked up by all the nationals last week. On Friday, The Times ran the headline: ‘Blame, claims and accusations as hospital bug deaths double’.

Who was behind the PR activity?

All of the ONS’ PR is handled by its in-house team. The numbers of MRSA cases are released quarterly to the media to keep them up to date.

How has the Department of Health responded?

It has been quick to state that the increased number is related to more reporting. Microbiology and infection control inspector Professor Brian Duerden said: ‘It is a number one priority for the NHS. We have taken significant steps to tackle infections.’

What are the future targets for controlling infections?

The NHS has been set a target of 30 per cent reduction in the next three years. It is also investing £230m per year by 2010-11 in improving infection prevention.


80% of cases occur in people over the age of 65

25% of cases were developed without hospital contact

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