MRSA infections fall to all time low at NNUH
In the last four months, there have been no hospital acquired cases of MRSA bacteraemia (bloodstream) infections at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
From March 2008 to June 2008, there was just one case of MRSA bacteraemia infection which was community acquired, meaning the patient had the infection when they were admitted to hospital.
The rate of infections has been halved in the last three years from 64 bacteraemia infections a year to 33 cases 2007/08. The Trust's target is no more than 26 cases this year while treating over 126,000 in-patients.
The figures were revealed at a 'Medicine for Members' briefing for patients and the public on 8th July. Speaking at the event, Dr Judith Richards, Consultant Medical Microbiologist & Director, Infection Prevention and Control at NNUH, attributed the current fall to the Trust's zero tolerance approach to infection.
She said: “There has been a culture change from accepting the infections happen to a zero tolerance approach. Infection prevention and control is everybody's business and we are all committed to reducing the risk to our patients from the board room to the wards.
“MRSA is one of the more well known infections but there will always be new organisms which will develop and sweep through the community. These infections then show up in hospitals where older patients and those with complex health problems are more vulnerable to infection.
“This has led us to develop a series of measures such as patient screening programmes, staff training, and regular audit which help us to maintain high standards. Keeping the environment clean, hand-washing and using single rooms to isolate patients with an infection are also top priorities.”
The Trust is due to expand its current MRSA screening programme. Starting this month, the aim is that all patients will be screened before they have elective (planned) surgery.
At the moment, patients undergoing procedures such as orthopaedic surgery are screened because they are at higher risk of an infection. Between 7.5 per cent and 10 per cent population may be colonised by MRSA which can be carried on the skin without any health problems. The bacteria can cause an infection when a patient has a deep wound or the skin's defences are penetrated by equipment, such as an intravenous drip.
Patients who are colonised by MRSA are offered a special antibacterial skin wash and cream for the nostrils which helps to clear the bacteria prior to hospital admission and reduces the risk of an infection.
The Trust has also seen rates of another infection called Clostridium-difficile (C.diff) fall during 2008. The Trust's target is to have fewer than 20 cases a month and in June 2008 there were just 14 cases.
This infection is associated with repeated antibiotic use in patients who have a chronic health condition. The antibiotics are often necessary to help patients recover from illnesses such as chest or kidney infections. In turn, these drugs can wipe out the good bacteria in the gut, leading to severe diarrhoea caused by the growth of the c-difficile bacteria. The rate of infection is reduced by changes to antibiotic prescribing, the use of isolation rooms, and deep cleaning of infected areas, as well as scrupulous hand hygiene.