There has been a great deal of publicity in recent years about infections acquired in UK hospitals, in particular
MRSA and Clostridium difficile (C.diff)
Many people, approximately 40% of the population, carry an organism called Staphylococcus aureus usually found in their noses, throats or in folds of the skin. MRSA or Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus is simply a variant that has become resistant to some commonly used antibiotics.
Generally, MRSA causes no problems but very occasionally, if MRSA gets into a surgical wound or a break in the skin of someone who is not in the best of health, it can cause an active infection. Even in these situations, however, there are still antibiotics that we can use.
At The Wellington Hospital, we have strict nursing and environmental cleaning procedures which reduce the risk of infection to very low levels. A significant factor is that we can offer single rooms with en suite facilities to almost all patients. We also have a high nurse to patient staff ratios which ensures time for high quality care and hygiene. Our room cleaning procedures, between discharge of one patient and admission of another, are extremely thorough and carefully monitored.
All patients admitted to The Wellington, including daycases, are screened for MRSA. If a patient is found to be a carrier, careful precautions are put in place to prevent spread of infection. In certain circumstances, a procedure may be deferred until treatment for MRSA has been administered.
You can find more in depth information about MRSA by visiting the Health Protection Agency website at www.hpa.org.uk. If you have any questions about MRSA and the policies of The Wellington Hospital, please phone our Enquiry Helpline on 0207 483 5148, where staff will take your contact details and arrange for a member of the Infection Control Team to get in touch with you.
Clostridium difficile (C.diff)
Most antibiotics can cause diarrhoea and Clostridium difficile was discovered to be the cause of some of the diarrhoea that patients developed after taking antibiotics. It is a bacterium that is present in the gut of up to 3% of healthy adults and 66% of infants. However, Clostridium difficile rarely causes problems in children or healthy adults, as it is kept in check by the normal bacterial population of the intestine. When antibiotics disturb the balance of bacteria in the gut, Clostridium difficile can multiply rapidly and some strains produce toxins which cause inflammatrion of the bowel.
Acquiring C. difficile may result in asymptomatic carriage, loose stools or profuse diarrhoea which can result in life-threatening inflammation of the bowel wall (pseudomembranous colitis). C. difficile infections are most common in people over the age of 65 years but any age group may be susceptible.
Large outbreaks of C. difficile with significant mortality have been documented around the world in healthcare facilities. The organism is present in the environment particularly around those who have diarrhoea and can contaminate the hands of patients and their carers. The organism forms spores which are resistant to drying and some disinfectants. Cross infection occurs if the organism has been able to contaminate the food that or water that patients consume. Very simple rules can prevent this happening.
We look for the bacterium by examining the faeces of patients in the laboratory for the toxins which are carried by the bacterium. If our laboratory identifies a case of Clostridium difficile, the Infection Control Team are immediately alerted and specific robust policies are initiated. These policies are fully in keeping with national guidelines and data is submitted quarterly to the Healthcare Commission.
Within HCA we are pleased to assure you that Clostridium difficile infections are uncommon.
Factors contributing to this low incidence include:
- Ongoing staff education and update
- Monitoring of antibiotic prescribing practices
- Patients are generally nursed in private rooms with private facilities. The exceptions include intensive care and ambulatory surgery areas
- High nurse to patient ratios ensuring compliance with hygiene policies
- On-site housekeeping staff work to high standards of hygiene and cleanliness.