Quarter northern trust homes carry MRSA

One in four residents of private nursing homes in the Northern Trust area carry MRSA, a study has found. The study, conducted by Queen’s University and Antrim Area hospital, surveyed 1,111 residents and 553 staff in 45 homes in the Northern Trust area.

Of those tested, 24% of residents and 7% of staff were shown to be carrying the bacteria, but were not necessarily showing signs of infection or illness.

The study is believed to be the largest of its kind in the UK.

Dr Paddy Kearney, Consultant Medical Microbiologist with the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, said the study was carried out after an apparent increase in recent years in the number of patients who had MRSA when they were admitted to hospital from nursing homes.

“In hospitals routine checks are carried out to identify those most at risk of MRSA colonisation (carrying it on their skin and/or nose) and infection control policies are put in place, but this is not always feasible in private nursing homes.”

Some nursing home staff said residents should also be screened when discharged from hospital so that MRSA is not carried back to other residents in the home.

Dr Michael Tunney, Senior Lecturer in Clinical Pharmacy at Queen’s, said staff needed “to be more aware of the potential problem MRSA can be in this setting”.

“Nursing homes have not been given the same priority as hospitals and maybe this is something that needs to be looked at in more detail to see what can be done.”

Mary Henderson who works with the Relatives Association in Northern Ireland out her father had MRSA when he returned to his care home after a stay in hospital.

“When I asked some people about maybe sharing their experience, one girl said she would be afraid of a backlash in a care home, or that she would have to move her loved one to another care home. People are afraid to talk,” she said.

“I have travelled into a lot of homes and there is an awful lot of good practice being done, I’m seeing that and I’m hearing that.

“But I still think there is a lot of hard work to be done.”

The study was carried out from December 2005 to July 2007.

It is published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.