ONS publish death rates for MRSA and C. difficile

The Office for National Statistics has published death rates for each NHS organisation in England and Wales, along with total deaths for each. The headlines, as usual, do not match the story. Take the Grauniad for example: “Superbug hospitals named and shamed”. I wonder if the headline writers ever read the article before putting pen to paper. The problems with this headline are many.

  • The data relates to deaths where MRSA or C. difficile are mentioned and are not necessarily the primary cause of death
  • Deaths related to these organisms where they are not mentioned on the death certificate are not counted
  • The data relates to where the death was recorded
  • The data does not relate to where the infection was acquired
  • Most of the deaths related to people over 85 years of age who had multiple courses of antibiotics for other medical conditions

All preventable deaths from these important investigations should be thoroughly investigated in order to look for opportunties to improve practice and protect the vulnerable. Unfortunately the completion of death certificates was not particularly god at the time of the collection of these statistics. Hopefully the guidance produced by the Chief Medical Officer in 2007 will lead to better data on which firmer conclusions can be drawn.

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