Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Hospitals Face Legal Battles over MRSA; VICTIMS OF SUPERBUG TO SUE HEALTH CHIEFS FOR NEGLECTING WARD HYGIENE

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Hospitals Face Legal Battles over MRSA; VICTIMS OF SUPERBUG TO SUE HEALTH CHIEFS FOR NEGLECTING WARD HYGIENE

Article excerpt

Byline: ISABEL OAKESHOTT;REBECCA SMITH;CLAIR WEAVER

HOSPITALS are facing a series of crippling legal battles with patients struck by superbugs.

Lawyers are preparing dozens of cases on behalf of victims of the deadly infection MRSA, known as a superbug because it cannot be treated with antibiotics. The death toll from the bug - spread as a result of poor hygiene - has risen more than 15-fold in the past decade.

If successful, the cases could open the floodgates to thousands of similar compensation claims against the NHS.

Campaigners say health chiefs must improve ward cleanliness or face serious financial penalties.

Details of the legal action come the day after it emerged that a young sportsman was left crippled by the virus. James Wollacott, 20, who had been selected for international roller-hockey trials, faces developing arthritis in both legs after picking up the superbug from a knee operation.

Today it emerged that lawyers are preparing to bring a catalogue of medical negligence claims on behalf of patients who contracted the illness. Among the victims taking legal action are: . A man who contracted MRSA in his spine after an operation on his feet . Relatives of a man in his fifties who died last year after contracting MRSA in a London hospital . A teenage boy who broke his leg and has had MRSA for 12 months Cases of hospital-acquired infections are rocketing, despite a national campaign to tackle poor hygiene.

Tony Field, from MRSA Support, today revealed he has received inquiries from dozens of victims considering legal action.

Mr Field said: "We now have 173 members and every one of them has asked us about legal action. I know of a few cases going ahead."

All hospitals now have infection control officers and provide antibacterial handwashes for staff to prevent infection spreading, but managers admit some do not always use them. Critics say far stricter hygiene rules must now be introduced.

Clinical negligence costs the NHS more than [pounds sterling]500million a year.

Deaths from MRSA soared from 51 in 1993 to 800 in 2002. The number of reported cases rose from 210 in 1993 to 5,309 in 2002, according to the most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics. …

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