A court hearing to determine whether a UK pensioner can proceed with plans to sue the National Health Service for contracting the notorious superbug MRSA will kick off in Edinburgh later today.

According to media reports, 71-year old Elizabeth Miller is seeking permission to claim compensation after picking up MRSA following a heart operation at the Royal Infirmary in Glasgow seven years ago.

The case is the first of its kind, as the NHS has never faced a claim for actually contracting MRSA before because it is difficult to prove the origin of the infection. In Miller’s case, however, there is reportedly evidence to suggest that she was not carrying MRSA on admission to hospital.

If the compensation claim gets the green light, the NHS could be facing several more suits potentially costing millions of pounds. Miller’s lawyer Cameron Fyfe told the Sunday Mail that, if successful, “we will proceed to the Court of Session for the first of more than 160 cases”.

Serious issue
The issue of hospital-acquired infections such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile is being taken very seriously by the government as they continue to claim thousands of lives each year; just last week it unveiled a comprehensive battle plan to further reign in the rate on infections across the UK.

Measures to help improve hygiene in hospitals include: extra funding of £270 million by 2010 to help drive forward initiatives, including £45 million for the provision of new specialist staff; a deep clean of hospitals to return them to their original state; a new campaign warning of inappropriate use of antibiotics, which can lead to treatment resistance; screening for all elective patients by March 2009; and annual infection control by the Healthcare Commission.

But the deep cleaning element of the plan has recently come under fire by the very companies that would be carrying out the job. According to media reports, Cleaning and Support Services Association director-general Andrew Large told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that any benefits from deep cleaning would be lost without extra funds for daily cleaning.