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East London hospitals had the most outbreaks of “superbug” MRSA in London so far this year, Public Health England figures reveal.
MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria resistant to many antibiotics that can result in fatal infections. The NHS has a “zero tolerance” stance on hospital outbreaks.
In the first seven months of the year, the two NHS trusts managing the vast majority of east London hospitals had the first and second highest number of outbreaks of any London trusts.
Barts Health NHS Trust, which manages five hospitals including Whipps Cross in Leytonstone, had seven outbreaks in its hospitals, the highest in London.
Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT) manages just two hospitals, King George Hospital in Ilford and Queen’s Hospital in Romford, and had four outbreaks.
Magda Smith, BHRUT’s chief medical officer, said: “We take keeping our patients safe from infections such as MRSA extremely seriously.
“All patients are screened for this when admitted to our hospitals. If they have MRSA, they are isolated from others to prevent the risk of transmission, and staff caring for them protect themselves by wearing PPE.
“We also identify which patients are most at risk of MRSA, such as those with open wounds, so we can take additional steps to protect them.”
It is understood that two of this year’s outbreaks occurred in King George Hospital and two in Queen’s Hospital.
Dr Smith added: “The potential causes are looked into in every case so we can learn from them and improve care for our patients.
“Fortunately this is unusual, therefore these numbers are too small to allow us to draw conclusions about the patient’s residence, or the hospital where they have been treated.”
A spokesperson for Barts Health NHS Trust said that, while “providing safe care is a key priority”, the trust is “one of the biggest” in England, “with a large number of inpatients”.
They added: “There are robust infection control measures in place across our hospitals and we are committed to reducing the spread of infection.
“Following review meetings for each case we made improvements to our processes to enhance our patients’ safety, including revisiting the products used to decontaminate skin and how intravenous lines are inserted.”
Hospital workers are advised to prevent the spread of MRSA by washing their hands between patients and carefully cleaning hospital rooms and medical equipment.
In 2014, Cambridge scientists questioned whether the NHS’s “zero tolerance” stance was realistic, arguing it might be impossible to entirely stop the spread of the bacteria.