HEALTH campaigners have criticised NHS bosses for ignoring technology which could help Lewisham Hospital solve its MRSA problem.

Earlier this year the hospital, in Lewisham High Street, trialled a groundbreaking technique designed to eliminate dangerous infections from its wards.

But now the Department of Health is refusing to invest in the equipment, which would cost each hospital around £100,000 a year to run, despite a thumbs-up from hospital bosses.

The technique, developed by Hampshire-based research firm Bioquell, involves emptying wards of patients, sealing all doors and windows and installing a series of machines.

The machines then pump out a mist of hydrogen peroxide, which kills bacteria without damaging any hospital materials.

In June, a Healthcare Commission survey revealed Lewisham was the fourth-worst hospital in the country for MRSA, with 60 recorded cases between April last year and March this year.

Lewisham Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) Forum chairman Alan Hall said: "If the hospital says this technique works I don't understand why it can't continue to use it.

"The NHS needs to get a move on. MRSA is a very serious issue."

Deptford Action Group for the Elderly (DAGE) has campaigned rigorously for the reintroduction of matrons to check cleanliness standards are maintained in the hospital.

But it also feels other methods should be looked at to combat the hospital superbug and other infections, such as clostridium difficile.

Chairman Harry Haward said: "The MRSA problem is huge and something has to be done. Old people are frightened to go into hospital at the moment.

"Anything which could help make the hospital cleaner has to be brought in."

Lewisham Hospital is one of six hospitals to have tested the Bioquell technique.

A hospital spokesman said: "We have used Bioquell twice in the past year-and-a -half to disinfect two wards where we identified the technique would be very effective. We have found its use to be very successful."

The Department of Health says more trials need to take place before it decides whether to introduce the Bioquell method more permanently.

A spokesman added: "It is up to Bioquell to persuade the NHS it should be using them."