West Midlands hospitals have figured amongst the worst in the country for the prevalence of MRSA in their wards.

And with cases of the superbug increasing across the country, a leading clinical negligence expert is calling for a strict set of national standards to be put in place to force these failing hospital trusts to improve their cleanliness.

"The UK has one of the highest rates of MRSA in Europe, far higher, for example, than other north European countries," said Satinder Hunjan QC, a leading clinical negligence silk at Birmingham's No5 Chambers.

"These countries put greater resources into cleanliness and hygiene in their hospital, which I believe is key to such good infection control."

The most recent Department of Health figures have revealed that half of the hospital trusts in the UK are making poor progress towards reducing MRSA infections by 50 per cent by 2008.

As a result, the country's worst performers are now set to receive help from Government teams of specialists who will implement practical and sustainable action plans to combat the problem.

Whilst this is a welcome step forward for many of the region's poorly performing trusts, Mr Hunjan believes that more needs to be done to enforce improved standards on all hospitals across the country.

He said: "Any unavoidable MRSA infection should be treated as unacceptable and hospitals need to be taken back to basics to improve their simple hygiene and cleanliness."

In November 2005, a report by the Patients' Association revealed fewer than half of doctors were regularly using recommended combative hand gels and uncovered a lack of acceptable cleaning services, with cleaners in the NHS falling from 100,000 20 years ago to just 55,000 in 2003-4.

The British Medical Association has also warned that even doctors' "functionless" white coats and ties could be a potential hazard in transmitting the infection to patients.

"Effective diagnosis and practical isolation methods are important, however no amount of patient screening will help if basic conditions are lacking," added Mr Hunjan.

"We need national standards of cleanliness to be implemented in all hospitals and introduce some accountability for failure to meet these targets."

The prevalence of the infection does not only impact on patients and hospitals but has also given rise to a significant increase in compensation levels over recent years.

Mr Hunjan went on: "It is a concern to many that you could conceivably go into hospital for a relatively minor injury and have a result with much more serious consequences.

"In many early incidences of MRSA, there were some difficulties in proving that the infection was avoidable in hospital, however with more legal and medical experience and knowledge, this is now easier.

"As a result, significant amounts of compensation are often paid to patients by insurance companies, who suffer the additional impact of infection during hospital treatment.

"Doctors, patients, managers, cleaners and visitors can all contribute the problem of MRSA and must all be instrumental in improving and monitoring conditions and procedures in our hospitals in order to match the sufficiently high standards achieved by other north European countries."