A new technique for stopping the spread of the hospital superbug MRSA is to be tested by the NHS after it was developed by a Birmingham doctor, Health Secretary John Reid has revealed.
The procedure will help hospitals to discover the source of infections, making them much easier to prevent.
It was developed by Peter Hawker, a consultant at Birmingham Heartlands & Solihull NHS Trust.
Dr Reid announced plans to test the technique at Heartlands Hospital, in Birmingham, as he revealed new figures which showed the number of MRSA cases has reduced. Some hospitals have been more successful than others in tackling MRSA, according to yesterday's figures.
University Hospital Birmingham NHS Trust, which includes the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Edgbaston and Selly Oak Hospital, has the third worst record in the country.
It recorded 65 cases of MRSA in the six months from April to September last year.
This amounts to 0.37 cases per 1,000 bed days, in the measurement system used by the Department of Health.
Across the country as a whole, the infection rate was 0.17 per 1,000 bed days.
Last night a spokeswoman for the trust said: "Our case mix of patients means we have an unusually large proportion of high risk patients and small proportion of low risk patients when compared with other teaching hospitals."
The hospital runs the largest solid organ transplant centre in Europe and the largest renal unit in the United Kingdom, she said.
Other hospital trusts with poor records included University Hospital of North Staffordshire NHS Trust, which runs the City General and Royal Infirmary in Stoke.
It recorded 53 cases, or 0.26 cases per 1,000 bed days.
University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust, which runs hospitals in Coventry and Rugby, had one of the lowest incidences of MRSA in the country. It recorded 23 cases, a rate of 0.11.
Birmingham Women's Healthcare NHS Trust, a single speciality acute trust, recorded no cases at all.
Dr Hawker has developed a technique for detecting MRSA within two hours - much faster than the current test, which takes days to complete.
This will allow doctors to determine whether patients became infected at hospital or brought infections in with them.
Dr Reid said infection levels were at their lowest since the numbers began to be recorded in 2001.
He added: "But there is still much more to do. That's why I am announcing today that the NHS will pilot a new rapid swab technique to identify patients with MRSA within hours rather than days."