The number of deaths from infections picked up in hospital, including the MRSA “superbug”, is four times greater than official figures issued by the Government, campaigners have argued.
The MRSA Support Group said government estimates of 5,000 deaths a year were based on figures that had been compiled in 1994.
Its analysis, however, of statistics from various official bodies, suggested the real number of deaths a year was more like 20,000, with half from MRSA.
Support group member Tony Field said the tally could actually be much higher because doctors commonly under-reported it and were not obliged to put MRSA on a death certificate as a secondary cause of death.
The Department of Health has argued it is very difficult to get a clear idea of the death rate from hospital-acquired infections, including MRSA, because the people who die from such infections are normally already very sick and have lowered immune systems.