Introduction: The English Department of Health introduced universal MRSA screening of admissions to English hospitals in 2010. It commissioned a national audit to review implementation, impact on patient management, admission prevalence and extra yield of MRSA identified compared to "high-risk" specialty or "checklist-activated" screening (CLAS) of patients with MRSA risk factors.
Methods: National audit May 2011. Questionnaires to infection control teams in all English NHS acute trusts, requesting number patients admitted and screened, new or previously known MRSA; MRSA point prevalence; screening and isolation policies; individual risk factors and patient management for all new MRSA patients and random sample of negatives.
Results: 144/167 (86.2%) trusts responded. Individual patient data for 760 new MRSA patients and 951 negatives. 61% of emergency admissions (median 67.3%), 81% (median 59.4%) electives and 47% (median 41.4%) day-cases were screened. MRSA admission prevalence: 1% (median 0.9%) emergencies, 0.6% (median 0.4%) electives, 0.4% (median 0%) day-cases. Approximately 50% all MRSA identified was new. Inpatient MRSA point prevalence: 3.3% (median 2.9%). 104 (77%) trusts pre-emptively isolated patients with previous MRSA, 63 (35%) pre-emptively isolated admissions to "high-risk" specialties; 7 (5%) used PCR routinely. Mean time to MRSA positive result: 2.87 days (±1.33); 37% (219/596) newly identified MRSA patients discharged before result available; 55% remainder (205/376) isolated post-result. In an average trust, CLAS would reduce screening by 50%, identifying 81% of all MRSA. "High risk" specialty screening would reduce screening by 89%, identifying 9% of MRSA.
Conclusions: Implementation of universal screening was poor. Admission prevalence (new cases) was low. CLAS reduced screening effort for minor decreases in identification, but implementation may prove difficult. Cost effectiveness of this and other policies, awaits evaluation by transmission dynamic economic modelling, using data from this audit. Until then trusts should seek to improve implementation of current policy and use of isolation facilities.