Branson slams Britain’s “horrific” MRSA problem

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain faces a “horrific” problem with hospital superbugs, entrepreneur Richard Branson said on Tuesday, accusing politicians and hospital bosses of tinkering with the problem but not doing enough to solve it.

The Virgin Group chairman, speaking in his role as vice-president of the Patients Association, said one in 10 people who go into hospital suffer an “adverse event.” He said more action was needed to deal with the spread of infection.

“In the airline industry, if we had that kind of track record we would have been grounded years ago,” he told the BBC.

“Therefore the airline industry has a spectacularly good track record and that certainly … doesn’t apply to the NHS.”

Branson called for all staff to be checked for the superbug MRSA and those who were carriers of the infection — which he said could be up to 30 percent of people working in hospitals — should be treated before they dealt with patients again.

He said the disruption would be better than the pain and misery caused by an unnecessary death.

Cases of MRSA have fallen significantly in recent years and the most recent figures showed there had been 725 cases reported between July and September, down 33 percent compared to the same period last year.

But England’s health watchdog, the Healthcare Commission, said in October that a quarter of NHS bodies were failing to meet basic standards of infection control designed to combat superbugs.

Branson said patients should have the right to know about the track record of hospitals, doctors and wards, and managers should be sack if they failed to meet NHS rules.

“There have been some improvements, but the facts speak for themselves — and the facts are still horrific,” he said.

“It feels like they’ve tinkered with the problem than really got to the heart of the problem. The hospitals are there to cure people. They are not there to kill people.”

The Department of Health said it was taking tough action to deal with hospital infections, bringing in stringent hand-washing measures, screening patients for MRSA and giving matrons more power to ensure cleanliness.

“These are clearly making an impact as we have halved MRSA infections since 2003/04 and C. difficile infections are down 35 percent on the same quarter last year,” a spokesman said.

(Reporting by Michael Holden. editing by Kate Kelland)

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