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Editor's blog Thursday 15 July 2009: Daft assertions on the NHS and HCAIs from a silly Kealey

Good morning. Terence Kealey, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham (the UK’s only independent degree-awarding institution, where Karol Sikora is Dean of Medicine), writes in today’s Times about research that may lead to the development of specific antibiotics that could work effectively on MRSA and C Dificil.

He cites this paper from Science by the fabulously-named Dr Fang and work by Dr Pierik as sources of hopeallowing science to protect us from the NHS’s failings.

Kealey’s final paragraph, however, dives straight into erroneous and fact-free ideology, asserting that the NHS “as a state monopoly will find new ways to fail”. He also asserts that the social insurance systems of Europe fare better due to lower bed occupancy, ignoring the findings from this paper from 2004 that “MRSA proportions significantly increased in Belgium, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom” between 1999 and 2002.

Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands were all social insurance systems during that period.

Kealey also reveals blatant ignorance of how the NHS now works in his assertion that continental hospitals, “being separately owned, compete for patients”. Free patient choice has been a reality for a few years now. The NHS has been using privately-owned hospitals forever, and under patient choice and the waiting list initiative, has been doing even more so over the past decade.

MRSA is largely transmitted by poor hand hygiene and wound dressing / catheter / canula practice among clinical staff. C Diff is largely transmitted by inadequate cleaning after incidents of explosive diarrhoea plus pooy hand hygiene.

As Atul Gawande points out Complications, healthcare-associated infections of these kinds are just as serious an issue (although less prevalent) in the US – the world’s most expensive medical system. US healthcare cost-inflation was the theme of a recent article by Gawande in the New Yorker.

Observers of the NHS’s financial growth over the last decade will also have a wry smile at Kealey’s concluding line that “the British resist reforms that cost them money”.