With MRSA rates in our NHS hospitals among the worst in Europe it is not surprising that many UK patients who are financially able are opting for private healthcare abroad because infection rates are lower, and in some cases non-existent and private treatment is competitively priced even with the cost of flights, hotels and transportation.
There is plenty of speculation about why the UK has more MRSA infections than Europe but it is thought that strains spread more easily in the UK than abroad due to the high levels of bed occupancy, the rapid turnover of patients and short staffing which leads to employing temporary staff who may not be as well briefed on infection control. Our hospitals are run to full capacity in an attempt to reduce waiting lists, and with so much pressure on space it is near impossible to isolate infected staff, so infections can spread more easily.
Hospitals in Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands and Denmark have proved it is possible to avoid infections reaching the blood of their patients due to having more isolation facilities and lower bed occupancy. In the Netherlands for example patients are tested for the virus and sent home with antibiotics and if MRSA is passed on to a hospital ward it is closed and thoroughly disinfected. This is hard to do in our NHS hospitals because of our high level of ward occupancy.
But that is not to say that other countries aren't affected by HAIs. The European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System (EARSS), which monitors antimicrobial resistance in Europe shows that other countries also have a high proportion of SA infections which are methicillin-resistant. Greece, for example, records 48.6 percent, while Germany and Spain record 20 per cent but Norway recorded less than 0.6% MRSA in 2005. EARSS maintains a comprehensive surveillance and information system that provides comparable and validated data on the prevalence and spread of major invasive bacteria like MRSA. However, if a country appears to have a high level of resistance to MRSA, it is not necessarily a high risk destination because if the hospital involved has good infection control then the infection rate is nil.
EARSS data covering period 1999-2004.