The Health Secretary has promised NHS hospitals more cash if they step up in the fight against superbugs.
Jeremy Hunt says hospitals will get the extra funds if they reduce infection rates, amid concerns over rates of superbugs within the NHS.
Last year, more than 5,500 people died in the UK as a result of deadly E.coli infections. Many of those were strains of the virus which are resistant to antibiotics.
Mr Hunt said there was up to £45 million available to share for hospitals which reduce infections by 10 per cent.
Hospitals must also show they are using antibiotics appropriately, and preventing urinary tract infections.
While urinary tract infection may sound minor, they are frequently caused within the NHS by catheters which are not properly fitted, and can cause extreme pain and discomfort for patients.
Antibiotic misuse, meanwhile, can lead to the development of resistant bacteria.
The Health Secretary has also said he plans to make sure the NHS is much more open about its infection control measures. It will have to publish staff hand hygiene figures, which will be based on the amount of anti-bacterial hand gel being used by hospitals.
Data will also be published on E.coli rates and the prescription of antibiotics.
Mr Hunt said: “The best way to make sure antibiotics continue to work is by minimising their use, which means we need to start a new war on avoidable hospital infections.”
While the two superbugs hitting the headlines in recent years have been MRSA and C.difficile, hospitals are proving successful in reducing rates of those infections. Rates of MRSA have dropped by 57 per cent, and those of C.difficile have dropped by 45 per cent.
E.coli infections are particularly deadly because a third of them are now resistant to antibiotics.
Cases of E.coli exceeded 38,000 last year, a 6,000 increase since 2013, according to the department’s latest figures.
There are several key ways to reduce the spread of superbugs, like E.coli, in hospital and in the community.
These include, say Public Health England, washing hands thoroughly after using the toilet, washing all vegetables and fruits that will be eaten raw and ensuring meat products are cooked properly. It also advises that people who are ill should not prepare food for others for at least 48 hours after they have recovered.