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One in 16 NHS patients develop infections29th of May 2014
One in 16 UK patients are developing infections on National Health Service (NHS) wards because of poor hygiene among staff, according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
The government body says 800 patients a day - or 300,000 a year - are infected by a member of staff or by dirty equipment. It is estimated the infections cause 5,000 deaths annually and contribute to another 15,000.
NICE says the figures are "unacceptable" and that many of the deaths could be avoided if doctors and nurses simply washed their hands.
Campaigners accuse NHS staff of becoming "complacent" about hygiene and say patients are becoming "more ill" in hospital when they should be getting better.
While hospitals have taken deep-cleaning measures to eliminate superbugs such as MRSA, there are fears staff may have failed to carry out more routine hygiene measures to control other infections.
NICE has issued new - seemingly basic - hygiene guidelines. They include telling staff to wash their hands between patients, making sure equipment is clean and not leaving tubes inside patients for too long.
Professor Gillian Leng, NICE deputy chief executive, said: "It is unacceptable that infection rates are still so high within the NHS.
"Infections are a costly and avoidable burden. They hinder a patient's recovery, can make underlying conditions worse, and reduce quality of life.
"Although there have been major improvements within the NHS in infection control, particularly in relation to Clostridium difficile and MRSA in the last few years, healthcare-associated infections are still a very real threat to patients."
The guidance from NICE includes telling managers to carry out regular checks on whether staff are washing their hands properly and to ensure enough soap and hand gel is provided on each ward.
Tom Sandford, director of the Royal College of Nursing, said: "Infection prevention and control are key to patient safety and need to be prioritised by every health service organisation.
"It is vital that all healthcare workers are actively involved in upholding infection control and hygiene standards and nursing staff have been at the forefront of many successful efforts to reduce infections and promote patient safety."