Clostridium difficile cases on the rise

There are 10 times more deaths across the UK from the superbug Clostridium difficile among over 65-year-olds than in any other country in the world, figures suggest.

The equivalent of one person dies every hour in our hospitals from this deadly superbug. It contributes to the deaths of four times as many people as MRSA.

It's mutating, getting even stronger and showing signs of resistance to one of only two drugs able to combat it.

These findings are revealed in a Panorama Special: How Safe is Your Hospital? The programme has also carried out a Freedom of Information survey of every acute trust and health board in the UK, to which 83% of trusts replied.

It was announced this week that C. difficile infections in England fell by 8% between October and December 2007.

However, Panorama has learned the way cases are counted has changed, and experts calculate that the real figure is actually between 16 and 35% higher than this - making a substantial increase on the last quarter.

In Scotland too the number of cases went up by 10%, and in Northern Ireland there was a hefty rise of almost 36%.

Comparable figures for Wales aren't out yet. The UK as a whole remains bottom of the world league.

UK C. diff deaths 'rise sharply' (BBC News, 26 April 2008)