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

Fogging device to rid wards of bugs

This technology is a welcome addition to the stringent infection control measures we already have in place and will allow us to clean and re-open any affected areas much more quickly and with less disruption

FOGGING machines are being used to deep clean wards at West Sussex Hospital. The equipment significantly reduces the amount of time it takes to clean patient areas following outbreaks of bugs such as MRSA, C. difficile, and norovirus. Two of the devices were purchased after a successful pilot last year and will be used when an infection outbreak has subsided and after housekeeping staff have carried out traditional cleaning. Patients will be moved from the affected side room, bay or ward, with the area sealed off before the machines are brought in. They will then diffuse a carefully-measured concentration of dry mist hydrogen peroxide into the atmosphere, which will penetrate and decontaminate all of the fixtures, fittings and equipment before breaking down harmlessly. Once the two-hour process is complete, a green light will alert staff and patients can be returned to the area. Nichole Day, executive chief nurse at the hospital, said: “This technology is a welcome addition to the stringent infection control measures we already have in place and will allow us to clean and re-open any affected areas much more quickly and with less disruption to patients and staff.”

New technology monitors handwashing

A FINISH company has developed a system that monitors handwashing compliance among healthcare staff. Ekahau's device monitors how staff wash their hands before and after they have interacted with patients through Wi-Fi technology. A company spokesman said the system would be ready to market to the NHS this spring, adding: “The technology works by using location-enabled staff badges hand in hand with beacons that are embedded into dispensers. The badges highlight particular members of staff by transmitting information to the beacons about their activities. This includes whether they wash their hands before and after visiting a patient.” It also sends reminders to text displays on the badges.

Alcohol-free sanitisers installed in Edinburgh

ALCOHOL-FREE hand sanitisers have been installed at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. The NO-GERMS solution from PHS Washrooms was chosen after a number of reports that alcohol equivalents can irritate the skin of healthcare staff and patients. Charles Neilson, operations manager at Balfour Beatty WorkPlace, which installed the sanitisers, said: “Infection control is fundamental throughout the hospital and working with PHS allows us to achieve the best possible standards. NO-GERMS is an ideal solution for hand sanitising as it is alcohol-free and 99.9% effective against germs and viruses. Combined with antibacterial SteriTouch dispensers, this was easily the best choice for us.”

Team to devise anti-microbial collar

AN ORTHOPAEDIC specialist has been awarded almost £160,000 from Arthritis Research UK to develop an anti-microbial collar to prevent bacterial infections associated with broken bones. Jennie Walker from the Division of Orthopaedic and Accident Surgery at the Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham will work with colleagues, Professor Brigitte Scammell and Dr Roger Bayston, on the project. She said: “Fractures are often treated by the insertion of external fixation where metal pins are inserted into the bone though the skin and attached to a metal frame. However, up to 40% of patients being treated in this way develop infections, varying in severity from minor redness of the skin to septicaemia.” Dr Bayston has already developed a similar device which is now commercially produced and has been used in more than 260,000 patients. The device reduces infections in shunts among patients with water on the brain, and in catheters in people with severe kidney failure. Walker said: “We plan to use this same technology to design and test an antibiotic-impregnated collar which can be fitted to the skin surface for use in pinning broken bones. We need to carry out further research to perfect it.” The Nottingham team will carry out a pilot study to determine its usefulness in patients. They also want to find out which bacteria are most commonly associated with pin site infections and whether there are some patients who are at particularly high risk.

Scotland continues crackdown

HUGE progress has been made in tackling hospital infections in the past three years, but there is still more that can, and must, be done. That was the message from Scotland's Health Secretary, Nicola Sturgeon, as she published the Healthcare Associated Infection Task Force Report for 2008-11.The task force was set up to co-ordinate and monitor NHS Scotland’s efforts to tackle rates of infections such as C.difficile and MRSA, which are now at their lowest levels since surveillance began. Among the future initiatives highlighted in the report are a trebling of funding to support a more comprehensive delivery plan; implementation of a National HCAI Action Plan and Delivery Plan; the introduction of standards for hospital inspections; and a reduction in antibiotic prescribing. Sturgeon said: “I made tackling hospital infections a priority as they were causing misery for too many and creating a climate of fear among people who needed hospital treatment. Today's report highlights just how far we have come and showcases the initiatives that have delivered these impressive results. Everyone involved is to be congratulated, but I am in no doubt that there is still more that can be done as we strive to embed quality in all aspects of patient care in Scotland.”

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Dr Manyando Milupi has been appointed consultant microbiologist at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

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