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Friday, 28 October 2005 11:44
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Superbug league tables “meaningless”
An expert from the Medical Research Council has labelled MRSA hospital league tables “meaningless” because of the superbug’s volatile nature.

David Spiegelhalter said that infection clusters distorted the true picture meaning that even if hospitals eliminated the underlying risk it would not necessarily be reflected in the published infection rates.

The government introduced the mandatory surveillance programme in 2002 and set at target of reducing rates by 50 per cent by 2008.

Dr Spielgelhalter said: "The basic problem is that it is unclear whether the targets refer to an observed rate reduction or a true reduction in underlying risk.

"This ambiguity is unimportant at the national level but, for individual hospitals, chance variation can make the observed rates extremely volatile and make simplistic notions of hitting targets unreliable."

The British Medical Journal study highlighted the case of Aintree Hospitals NHS Trust which had 34 cases in 2001-2, 66 in 2002-3 and 48 the following year.

Dr Spielgelhalter said that even if a hospital reduced the real risk of MRSA infection by 20 per cent, this might not be reflected in published statistics.

Georgia Duckworth, of the Health Protection Agency, accepted there were limitations to the figures, but added: "Mandatory surveillance of MRSA infection rates has raised the profile of infection control."


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