Action group to curb infection rates at NHS Highland hospitals

Team will explore rising reports of C.difficile and Staphylococcus aureus bacteria

An action group is being set up to address high infection rates at hospitals run by NHS Highland.

The team will focus on driving down rates of C.difficile and Staphylococcus aureus bacteria (SAB), for which the health board has missed certain targets.

The latest outbreak of C.diff took place at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness last month and led to a medical ward being closed to new admissions for a week.

“The focus of this group will be to drive forward the work which will enable the board to deliver very challenging SAB and C.diff targets,” said director of nursing, Heidi May.

The group will be chaired by Dr Jonty Mills, NHS Highland consultant microbiologist and lead infection control doctor.

May said that, since April this year, the main sources of preventable SAB infections have been contaminants and invasive devices, such as cannulas and central lines. A vascular devices working group is looking into the issue, initially at Raigmore Hospital before extending across other hospitals in the region.

The announcement comes as NHS boards have been charged with reducing rates of healthcare associated infections so that by March 2015 SAB cases, including MRSA, number 24 or fewer per 100,000 acute bed days.

However, the number in NHS Highland from April to June was 28.7 – above the target but better than the average across the NHS in Scotland of 29.5. Highland’s figure improved to 27.1 from July to September, though this has yet to be validated.

With C.diff, the new national target is 32 cases per 100,000. NHS Highland’s April-June figure was 26.4, but the number rose to 39.7 in the period from July to September 13, according to initial data from Health Protection Scotland.

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