Superbugs – How safe is your hospital? (Panorama)

June 12, 2008

Concerns about antibiotic-resistant bacteria have become a staple feature of news and documentaries. An April 2008 Panorama special How safe is your hospital? looked at the alarming rise of Clostridium difficile (C. diff) in UK hospitals. Showing the programme as a whole with a group of students would be inappropriate; it lasts for a full hour and the pace is often cumbersome. In addition, I fear that much of the discussion of old ladies and diarrhoea runs the risk of generating inappropriate responses from classes of teenagers.

Having said that, there are some real nuggets here which, appropriately selected, can raise some of the scientific and ethical issues associated with antibiotic usage. The opening 3 minutes of the programme, available as an iPlayer clip on the BBC website, has general potential as a scene-setter. The full episode is also being streamed on the Panorama website (in the BBC’s older RealPlayer-based format). The most useful section of the episode starts about 14 minutes in (14:20 on the streamed video), beginning with the interview of Prof Richard James from Nottingham University and showing the following 5 minutes (through to the section on the outbreak at the Stoke Mandeville hospital, although there are some other natural end-points in between if this is too long). 

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