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Hospitals face superbug crackdown

Hospitals that fail to tackle MRSA and Clostridium difficile are to be served with "improvement notices", the health watchdog has announced.

Experts from the Healthcare Commission will carry out a series of "spot checks" on 120 NHS trusts in England over the next year.

Those that are not up to scratch could find themselves served with an improvement notice, or be put in special measures.

The crackdown comes as recent figures show C difficile is still on the rise.

Health Protection Agency statistics released in April identified 55,681 cases of the potentially fatal bug in patients aged 65 and over in England in 2006.

That figure is up 8% on the number of cases reported in 2005.

But MRSA bloodstream infection figures revealed 1,542 cases in England between October and December 2006, down 7% on the previous quarter.

Despite the fall, the government is widely expected to miss its target of halving rates of MRSA before April next year.

The Healthcare Commission will use existing data on infection rates and cleanliness to identify trusts that need help, and those not doing well will be prioritised.

Health minister Lord Hunt said: "The commission is empowered to issue improvement notices where necessary but these rigorous checks will ensure that trusts adhere to the code and will help to give patients the assurance that, wherever they may be treated, everything possible is being done to keep infections to a minimum."

Healthcare Commission

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