CASES of the antibiotic resistant superbug MRSA infecting patients at Leighton Hospital soared by 55% in the last three years, new figures have revealed.
The rise, well above a national increase of 4.7%, shows patients admitted to the Crewe hospital are more likely to contract the potentially fatal bacterium than ever before.
The bug, which can occur naturally on people's skin and inside their noses, can lead to serious complications if it infects the wounds or bloodstream of already poorly patients.
It is spread around the wards on the hands of doctors and nurses, and can lead to serious infections if transferred to instruments placed inside the body, such as tubes and catheters.
Patients who do contract the bug should be isolated from others in a side room and not be moved around the hospital in a bid to stop the infection spreading further.
But Leighton Hospital chief executive Simon Yates admitted staff are still failing to wash their hands properly, while his wards have too few side rooms to effectively isolate MRSA-infected patients.
He said: 'I am concerned we are reporting more cases of MRSA than we have done before. It's a trend that is going the wrong way and a trend that we don't want to have.
'Part of the reason is that people are more aware now of the importance of reporting any incidents of MRSA, and for that reason reports are going up.
'Another reason is that we are seeing all the time people coming into the hospital that we then find have MRSA. That is a growing problem in the community.'
Mr Yates conceded there are still practices carried out in the hospital which are causing cases of the superbug to increase, but insisted measures are in place to curb the rise.
He said: 'One of the things we still do which we think contributes to the rise is moving patients around the hospital, but we have to do this due to the pressure on beds.
'But the thing that makes all the difference is hand hygiene. We have nurses who think they have washed their hands effectively but have to be told they haven't.'
Mr Yates said specially designated 'infection control nurses' were re-training all the nurses to improve awareness of the importance of hand washing between patients.
While old-style taps have been replaced with specialist elbow-controlled handles, and kitchen units had been improved, throughout the hospital site.
He also stressed that the hospital had employed six 'practice educators' to observe how ward nurses were operating to check infection control practices were being implemented.
And side rooms originally turned into teaching areas and offices were being turned back into side rooms to help improve the hospital's isolation facilities.
Mr Yates also said he 'totally disagreed' with reports the MRSA bug was increasing throughout the country because of falling standards.
He admitted there are 'some areas of the hospital where we are not hitting levels of cleanliness we should be' but said 20 new cleaning staff working directly under senior ward sisters was making a difference.