The current concerns about hospital acquired infections seem at first glance extremely frightening and indeed there have been deaths associated with Clostridium Difficile. The Department of Health has launched an investigation.Any solution to these problems will be complex and multi faceted. Firstly one must note that frequently people become infected with this bacterium due to the use of potent antibiotics which have had to be given to them due to their severe illnesses. Infected patients can then indeed transfer their infections to others themselves or via staff or inanimate objects. Staff hand washing is indeed important as is cleaning in hospitals. One problem which must be remembered about cleaning is, however, that with very high rates of bed occupancy there is less time to clean before the next patient arrives. As such increased cleaning not only costs more money but also reduces apparent efficiency. That it increases overall efficiency is of course without doubt but such things are more difficult to measure especially in the target obsessed NHS.
The ministers announcement also proposes a review of hospital visiting which is I am sure useful but one must remember that people in hospital want and need visitors so there is actually a balance to be struck. The proposals on staff dress code also sound sensible but the BMA has pointed out that some of the proposals about staff dress code have little evidence of benefit to support them. One major benefit would also be having more patients in single rooms as noted in this press release. That is of course a problem in older hospitals and the capital costs of creating all single room hospitals would be vast.
This is, however, a problem which is unlikely to go away and will require multiple solutions, as such it is not an easy subject for the media to cover and there is a danger of journalists shrilly calling for instant solutions and politicians being forced to adopt measures which are not necessarily useful. For once I almost feel some sympathy for Mr. McGimpsey, which is a change for me; maybe I should see a doctor?