WITH hospital acquired infections a hot topic, the Great Western Hospital claims it is the cleanest it has ever been, thanks to modern methods and public support.

The state-of-the-art building has made all the difference, according to infection control experts, in tackling potentially deadly infections like MRSA bacteraemia and Clostridium difficile.

To keep a hospital clean is a huge task that involves wards, staff, instruments, patients and visitors.

Heather Bennett, infection control nurse at the hospital, said that despite all the procedures in place without public co-operation her task would be much harder.

The hospital launched its HIT Infection Together' campaign in May this year to raise awareness.

The main points raised by the campaign are to wash hands thoroughly, particularly after using the toilet, not to sit on beds, not to put feet on beds and furniture, to use alcohol gels when entering and leaving a ward and not to visit the hospital if you are feeling unwell.

The limit for MRSA hospital acquired infections from April 2008 to April 2009 is 10.

Ms Bennett said: "We don't want to get to April and think it's okay we've got nine - that's not how we look at it.

"It's not acceptable to have any, but you cannot eliminate hospital infections."

So far Ms Bennett said the public's response has been fantastic and she has noticed patients and visitors using the hand gels provided outside every ward.

Posters have been put up to remind people of the importance of just washing their hands and regular audits are done to enforce hygiene and cleaning standards.

She also said that because of the modern layout of the hospital it was much easier to isolate infected patients.

Miss Bennett also commented on the reports the hospital has received from visitors about staff as a positive way of dealing with any lapses.

Twenty years ago hospital infections were less common, but Ms Bennett said conditions at the old Princess Margaret Hospital made cleanliness much harder to achieve.

Part of the problem now is that some of these infections are created by overuse of antibiotics and a population living longer, creating more vulnerable patients.

Peripheral lines, such as catheters, that enter the body through the skin and open wounds are the chief cause of MRSA bacteraemia, whereas Clostridium difficile (C diff) is often caused when antibiotics upset the normal flora in the patient's gut.

Therefore choice and limited use of antibiotics is incredibly important in preventing Clostridium difficile.

Ms Bennett said that the hospital is working closely with its doctors to make sure they are using antibiotics appropriately.

The antibiotic pharmacist plays a key role in checking drugs are being prescribed effectively and in making sure those with C diff are given the correct treatment.

Around 30 per cent of the population carries MRSA on their skin or in their nasal passages in a harmless form.

The difficulty is preventing those carrying it in the community from infecting themselves and others.

The latest initiative is to screen patients before they are admitted and give people the appropriate treatment beforehand.

The Government wants hospitals to screen all patients coming in for planned procedures by 2009 and all emergency patients by March 2011, but Ms Bennett said that the PCT aims to screen all elective patients and 70 per cent of emergency cases by March 2009.