Last update 16th. July 2004
Doctors wiped out the deadly MRSA superbug from one of their wards and dramatically cut infection rates during a detailed study using simple hygiene methods.
Staff at the Broomfield Hospital in Essex witnessed the number of infections plunge by two thirds and the cases of MRSA completely disappear in the space of only 12 months after " ringfencing" a ward.
During the research they were told to wear clean uniforms, change patients' bedsheets and wash their hands properly between tasks after patients had undergone an admissions screening for MRSA.
The number of infections on the ward had dropped from 43 to 15 and the number of cases of MRSA eradicated. The measures introduced as part of the study also saw a significant increase - 17 per cent - in the amount of patients seen.
The changes were introduced by orthopaedic surgeon Leela Biant in Broomfield's 28-bed hip and knee replacement surgery ward in 2000.
She and colleagues kept records the year before on all the patients who had picked up infections on the ward, including MRSA.
In 1999, 417 patients were admitted to the ward. Eight cases of MRSA were reported, with rates of other hospital-acquired infections running at 10 per cent. In a year the infection rate had dropped and MRSA cases disappeared.
"The measures we took were quite simple and we have proved that they not only lead to a drastic cut in infections, but they eradicated all cases of MRSA," said Ms Biant.
"It actually works out to be more cost-effective for the NHS because people were able to leave hospital earlier and we were able to do more operations overall."