Clostridium: Screening

Health written question – answered at on 31 January 2008.

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Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley Shadow Secretary of State for Health

To ask the Secretary of State for Health when his Department's screening programme for clostridium difficile on admission to hospital will begin; and what budgetary provision he has made for the programme in each financial year to 2010-11.

Photo of Ann Keen Ann Keen Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Health Services), Department of Health

We are introducing universal screening for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus for all elective patients by March 2009 and for all emergency patients as soon as possible over the next three years, supported by funding of £130 million per year by 2010-11. This will reduce the likelihood of a patient developing a clinical infection or passing it on to others in hospital who may be vulnerable.

We have considered whether universal screening of patients for Clostridium difficile ( C. difficile) is the best way forward for the national health service. However, the current clinical evidence does not suggest that universal screening would be clinically, or cost, effective as universal screening would not identify the majority of patients who might be carrying C. difficile bacteria, and patients without symptoms are not considered to present an increased risk of infecting others. This is why we are targeting high risk patients for C. difficile screening. All over 65s in hospital with diarrhoea already should be screened for C . difficile as set out in current guidance. This will ensure the infection is identified quickly and appropriate measures are taken to treat the patient and minimise infection of other patients.

The measures for tackling healthcare associated infections such as C. difficile are set out in Health Protection Agency guidance, the "Saving Lives" programme and "Clean, safe care" strategy. Additional investment of £270 million funding per year by 2010-11 has been identified in the comprehensive spending review to support infection control and cleanliness in the NHS.

We will keep the clinical evidence for further C. difficile screening under review and will act quickly in response to new and emerging evidence.

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Kenneth Armitage
Posted on 4 Feb 2008 6:51 am (Report this annotation)

""We are introducing universal screening for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus for all elective patients by March 2009"". This is a bit late in the day, isn't it? The NHS has had problems with MRSA and C Difficile for many years and yet it seems to take an age before someone takes effective action to deal with such problems. One starts by having an isolation pre-entry ward where screening for any and all sorts of such bugs happens before people are admitted to hospital for any kind of treatment.