Copper makes its mark on hospital washrooms

This article explores how copper and other antimicrobial solutions are helping to beat bugs in hospital washrooms

Copper is fast becoming a key solution to reduce potentially-lethal bugs within hospital environments.

Particularly in hospital washrooms, where infections are known to spread, antimicrobial copper materials are proving particularly effective.

Speaking to BBH , Sean Foley of engineering product manufacturer, Pegler Yorkshire, explained: “Bathrooms and other handwashing facilities are fundamental to infection prevention and control.

“Hand hygiene prevents cross infection in hospitals, but compliance with recommended instructions is commonly poor, albeit improving.”

The enormity of the importance of handwashing and the cleanliness of bathrooms is highlighted by the fact that the prevalence of healthcare associated infections (HCAIs) was 6.4% in NHS England hospitals during 2011, with estimated treatment costs of approximately £1billion per year.

“Unfortunately common test measurement methods for micro-organisms in healthcare environments - ATP and Total Coliform - do not indicate the presence of viruses,” said Foley.

“Pathogens like Norovirus are a big issue in hospitals and are very successful at spreading, especially in washrooms.”

This is where antimicrobial copper can be of particular benefit.

Foley said: “The use of antimicrobial copper should be used as an adjunct to other infection control measures – such as regular handwashing and surface cleaning and disinfecting – to improve patient safety.”

Pegler Yorkshire’s Performa Healthcare+ range of antimicrobial copper taps is specially designed to kill pathogens transmitted to the tap's outer surface by improperly-washed hands.

This approach to infection prevention is supported by the UK clinical trial at Selly Oak Hospital, which was the first in the world to publish results demonstrating copper’s efficacy in reducing microbial contamination in a clinical setting by over 90%. Further trials around the world are adding to this growing body of evidence.

“Copper is inherently antimicrobial and shares this benefit with many copper alloys including brass and bronze,” said Foley.

“Collectively termed 'antimicrobial copper', this family of metals is used to make touch surfaces that will not harbour pathogens that cause infections, actively killing them 24/7 and in between regular cleans. Antimicrobial copper has proven efficacy against a broad range of pathogens, including those with antibiotic resistance such as MRSA and VRE.”

Reducing the rate of infection in this way means a substantial reduction in a patient’s length of stay, a reduction in their mortality risk, and a reduction in overall treatment costs.

Foley advises: “Payback or return on investment for hospital trusts will be quickest when items are upgraded to copper during new-build or scheduled refurbishment or renovation. The solid scientific and clinical evidence of efficacy and cost-effectiveness is very compelling.”

To promote further uptake of the products, Pegler Yorkshire is working closely with ACT surfaces to promote the benefits of antimicrobial copper and currently has products being specified and trialled in NHS trusts across the UK.

Companies