The following data were obtained from annual hospital statistics in Northern Ireland and from the Communicable Diseases Surveillance Centre (CDSC) Northern Ireland for 2001-2002 and 2002-2003: bed turnover interval (TI), percentage bed occupancy (PO) and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus rates per 1000 bed-days of patient episodes [MRSA (PE)]. A significant negative correlation was established (r=-0.854; P<0.01) between TI and MRSA (PE) in 2002-2003. A significant positive correlation for PO and MRSA (PE) (r=0.679; P<0.05) was also found for the same year. The correlation for TI and MRSA (PE) in 2001-2002 was r=0.621 (P<0.05), but no significant correlation was established for PO and MRSA (PE) in the same year. Partial correlation indicated that the influence on MRSA (PE) rates was greater for TI than for PO. These results infer that a rapid turnover of patients is an important factor influencing MRSA rates within acute hospitals. (c) 2005 The Hospital Infection Society. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.