Infection control: News round-up

A round-up of the latest advances in infection control and bug-busting activities in the NHS and private healthcare sector

Support for MRSA screening in ICUs

SCREENING all intensive care unit patients for MRSA using new high-speed tests and then using decolonisation techniques is likely to be the most cost-effective policy, new research has shown. A study by the Health Protection Agency used modelling to compare different strategies, with various combinations of screening, decolonisation and isolation control practices available in ICUs, to see which combination would be most effective and which would give best value for money.

The results showed that all strategies for decolonisation both improved outcomes and reduced costs. The most cost-effective strategy in the short-term was universal decolonisation of all patients, regardless of MRSA status, but the authors said this could lead to increased resistance. In light of this, they said that the most cost-effective strategy long-term was testing all patients on admission to ICU and then weekly using a PCR test combined with decolonisation using nasal mupirocin.

The authors concluded: “MRSA control strategies that use decolonisation are likely to be cost saving in an intensive care unit setting provided resistance is lacking, and combining universal screening using polymerase chain reaction with decolonisation is likely to represent good value for money if untargeted decolonisation is considered unacceptable. In intensive care units where decolonisation is not implemented, evidence is insufficient to support universal screening for MRSA outside high prevalence settings.”

Door handle gel device to tackle germs

AN INNOVATIVE door handle gel dispenser developed in conjunction with NHS specialists has been launched in a bid to help in the fight against health care associated infections (HCAIs) through encouraging improved hand hygiene. The Pure Hold Hygiene Handle replaces a conventional pull-door handle with a design that automatically dispenses sanitising gel directly into the hand when the user opens the door. In trials, the device was shown to improve hand-hygiene compliance rates by up to 700%. Trialled at NHS hospitals in Portsmouth and Winchester, the Hygiene Handle is built on a stainless steel frame and is approved for use on fire doors. It has a capacity of 1,300ml - enough gel for approximately 1,300 uses.

C.diff outbreak could lead to fines

A RISE in the number of C. difficile cases at Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust (RCHT) could lead to a fine of up to £2.5m, hospital managers have been warned. The trust has reported 27 cases since 1 April against a yearly allowance of 50, leading to RCHT reviewing the way it prescribes antibiotics and highlighting good hand hygiene to staff and patients. Louise Dickinson, consultant nurse for infection prevention and control at the trust, said: “The RCHT has always taken the issue of C. difficile seriously and we have worked very hard to reduce the number of cases. Our success with this has meant that our C. diff target is lowered every year. The result being that it becomes more challenging to stay within it.”

Gloucester hospitals are winning battle

COMMUNITY hospitals in Gloucestershire are winning the battle against superbug infections, new figures show. Between April 2010 and March 2011 there were no cases of MRSA and just 27 cases of C.difficile reported at the county’s nine hospitals, a decrease of 25% from the previous year. Liz Fenton, head of nursing at Gloucestershire Care Services for NHS Gloucestershire, said: “The continued emphasis on infection prevention and control in our hospitals is testament to the hard work of our staff and the co-operation of our patients and their families. Infection prevention is a high priority and we will continue to promote the importance of good hygiene through education and training, working with patients and staff.”

Handwashing campaign launched

NHS North Yorkshire and York has launched a campaign promoting the ‘six steps of good handwashing’ to help in the fight against winter illnesses and infections. A short video showing the ‘six step approach’ developed by infection control experts is available on the PCT’s website. Dr Phil Kirby, the trust’s interim director of public health, said: “Proper handwashing with soap and warm water is the single most important thing you can do to help reduce the spread of infection and help protect you, your family and those around you.”

Maidstone steps up bug-busting efforts

MAIDSTONE and Tunbridge Wells NHS Foundation Trust is stepping up its infection control efforts. As well as increasing the number of handbasins and reminder signs at Maidstone Hospital, the organisation is also removing the alcohol gel dispensers from entrances. The move comes amid evidence from the World Health Organization and the National Patient Safety Agency that the best way of preventing infections is good hand hygiene at patients’ bedsides.

Dr Sara Mumford, director of infection prevention and control at the trust, said: “The gel dispensers at the entrances to our hospitals have been used well by staff, patients and visitors alike. However, we have found that they can distract people from using the gel at the bedside, do we are going to remove the gel from the entrances to our hospitals and focus hand hygiene where it will do most good and that is in the clinical areas and at the patients’ bedsides.” The policy is also being used at the new Tunbridge Wells Hospital at Pembury.

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