MRSA story not balanced’

PUBLISHED: 16:15 05 October 2006 | UPDATED: 10:57 06 May 2010

SIR – In contrast to The Comet s normal balanced approach to the reporting of health issues, the paper s lead article last week – Our sick hospitals – suggested that the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, which runs the Lister, QEII and Hertford Coun

SIR - In contrast to The Comet's normal balanced approach to the reporting of health issues, the paper's lead article last week - Our sick hospitals - suggested that the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, which runs the Lister, QEII and Hertford County hospitals, had been "plunged into crisis" and had an "appalling safety record".

Your story was highly selective on facts and very misleading. The suggestion that the Trust has received a damaging external report from the National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) is just not true.

What is correct, however, is that we do report a higher level of incidents than other NHS trusts. This is actually good news. It is indicative of an open culture - something welcomed by the NPSA in its report.

What your article failed to point out was that 97% of the incidents reported by the Trust resulted in no harm to patients. This is significantly better than the average of 72% achieved across those large acute NHS trusts against which we were compared by the NPSA.

Experience from other industries with a strong safety culture shows that a high level of reporting of no harm incidents in relation to more serious ones is to be welcomed positively. Your article placed selective emphasis on patient deaths - which covered a two-year period, and not just three months - without noting that the data published by NPSA and shared openly by this Trust, demonstrates that the level of serious harm resulting from errors at the Trust is one fiftieth of that of other NHS trusts.

With respect to MRSA, there was no mention of the following:

l Large Trusts with a complex workload have higher rates of MRSA

l Like only a minority of NHS trusts, this Trust's MRSA levels have been falling year-on-year for some time now

l The Trust's ranking relative to other organisations has also improved

Your story stated that MRSA is rife in our hospitals, which is not just untrue but also serves to alarm our patients when in reality the actual risk of acquiring an MRSA infection is less than 0.1%. This risk is minute compared to the very real dangers facing people who put off coming into hospital because of fears about MRSA. This Trust has always adopted an approach of great transparency and places information in the public domain that many others do not. This includes complex reports such as that produced by the NPSA, which we are happy to make available to anyone who wishes to see it (please contact Victoria Fisher, Secretary to the Trust Board on 01438 781591 or e-mail her on victoria.fisher@nhs.net).

We will continue to adopt such an open approach but believe that the media also has a responsibility. Local papers like The Comet provide an important source of information on the health service for local people. Misleading articles such as that published last week only serve to cause needless worry and anxiety in the community, as well as undermine the efforts of our staff.

Nick Carver

Chief Executive


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Comet. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the The Comet