Press Release

Significant drop in MRSA & C.diff infections but further work needed – Varadkar

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has welcomed a significant drop in the level of MRSA and C.difficile infections in Irish hospitals, and thanked staff for their key role.

However, the Minister also urged further vigilance across the health service in order to bring Ireland into line with other EU countries.

The figures were released in advance of tomorrow’s announcement of a new cross-Government initiative to tackle antibiotic resistance, and followed the launch this week of the HSE’s campaign which encourages people only to use antibiotics when necessary.

The most recent HSE statistics available on MRSA and C.diff infections show that since surveillance of both infections started in 2006 and 2008 respectively, infection levels for both types of infection have fallen, with a 62% reduction in MRSA infections and a 14% reduction in C.diff over the period to end 2013.

“I want to acknowledge the hard work and good progress made by the HSE in the fight against MRSA and C.diff. Staff in particular are making huge efforts and have played a vital role in improving hygiene levels and preventing cross infection,” Minister Varadkar said.

“However, MRSA rates in Ireland remain high compared to many countries. Healthcare associated infections are one of the leading causes of preventable harm. Outbreaks of other antibiotic-resistant infections such as CRE in Ireland, and elsewhere, show we need to remain vigilant, with a particular focus on hand hygiene and antimicrobial stewardship.”

Dr Philip Crowley, National Director for Quality Improvement said: “The very welcome downward trend in MRSA and C.diff infections shows how surveillance of infections has helped to drive improvement for patients. Healthcare-associated infections and antibiotic resistance are serious threats to the quality of the care we provide. We must continue to build on the work we have done and ensure good prevention practice in all areas of healthcare. The HSE has identified three priority areas for improvement: hand hygiene, medical device-related infections, and safe/appropriate use of antibiotics.”

Since National Hand hygiene compliance audits started in 2011, the number of staff complying with hand hygiene procedures has increased by 14.5% to the end of June. Further bi-annual audits will be held to track progress in this area.

The HSE is running a range of initiatives like the National Clinical Programme for the prevention and control of healthcare-associated infections and antimicrobial resistance. This is supported by the national Clinical Advisory Group run by the Royal College of Physicians and the HSE, which has helped to reduce the rate of infections and introduced preventative measures. HIQA also plays a very important role by staging random inspections and publishing regular hygiene reports.

In addition, the National Clinical Effectiveness Committee has published National Clinical Guidelines on MRSA and C.diff. The Guidelines provide practical advice on how to prevent and control MRSA and C.diff, improve patient care, minimise patient morbidity and mortality and help to contain healthcare costs.

Patient Safety has also been identified as an over-riding priority in the HSE National Service Plan. Key indicators including the rates of MRSA and C.diff are reviewed by the Department with the HSE as part of the National Service Plan monitoring process.


The HSE performance metrics measure the rates of infection per bed days.  For both MRSA and C.diff the rates have come in better than targeted.   In addition, since 2006 there has been a marked decrease in the number of cases of Staphlyococcus Aureas (blood stream infections) that are of the Methicillin-resistant (MRSA) strain.  The number of  MRSA bloodstream infections across the public and private hospital sector for the past eight years has dropped from 592 to 222 cases, a decrease of over 62%.

At present, all data on HCAIs is reported on a quarterly basis in arrears.  Figures to date indicate that C.diff rates in Quarter 2 of 2014 (provisional) per 10,000 bed days used have decreased by 15% compared to the rate reported during the same period in 2013.