Reducing healthcare associated infections conference

Reducing HCAIs 2014
18 February 2014

Reducing HCAIs 2014 was well attended and we were lucky enough to have been given an exhibition space for the charity's stand. During the networking sessions we had over 400 delegates visiting the stand and many of them took our posters promoting hand washing and patient information leaflets back to their hospitals and organisations.

The programme was packed with interesting speakers and there were plenty of opportunities to join the debate and ask questions.

Julie Storr spoke about improving processes, which was patient focused. Surgical site infections can result in significant delays in recovery, cause misery for patients and sometimes result in death. Many, if not most surgical site infections are avoidable, with the knowledge and techniques we have. Julie referred to the EPIC 3 guidelines, these have been updated, but the principles involved in giving the best care remain as they have in previous guidelines.

Graeme Moir, consultant surgeon at Barts and the London NHS Trust spoke about the culture of organisations. Audit and keeping track of infections can help identify where you can improve.

Professor David Leper's presentation covered interventions in surgery, such as giving insulin infusions to non-diabetic patients to keep blood glucose levels stable.

Strategies to prevent surgical site infection complications following caesarean sections was discussed, understanding the reasons why there are large numbers of ladies experiencing problems is important, MRSA Action UK is frequently contacted by new mums who have problems. Some issues identified by staff included not knowing how to use packs of surgical equipment. Other examples of issues identified during audits included some theatre practices that, in our view, simple common sense would let theatre staff know were likely to lead to higher risk of infection, these included leaving theatre and anaesthetic doors open, too many people in the theatre, and staff (junior doctors in this instance) leaning across surgical instruments without gowns and gloves on. One theatre had a hole in the floor. You wouldn't find these never events on a checklist, so one wonders if the checklists used in theatre cause staff to stop thinking for themselves.

We made use of social media and MRSA Action UK was amongst the top influencers in the online debate. Topics we engaged in included biofilms - if you suspect it cleanse it, debride it, but don't use antibiotics, they don't work on biofilms; patient engagement - involvement with EPIC3 guidelines and patient partnership and the work with hospitals and clinicians. The use of pictures to show the true effect of surgical site infections - more than just numbers. Surgical site infection - surveillance is important, need to be honest, if we are all being honest then there wouldn't be outliers, we all have surgical site infections, and the need for consistency in measuring them. Patient impact is huge. Causes misery. Zero tolerance - there is absolutely no excuse for a patient getting an avoidable healthcare infection.

Derek raised some questions with the panel. The very topical autoclave failure cited by the Care Quality Commission report, putting women having caesarean sections at risk at Arrow Park Hospital, was an example of the healthcare industry failing to react to such an adverse event. Derek compared this to car manufacturer Toyota, where a design fault was identified and all cars were recalled for safety, you do not hear of the same response in healthcare, working in silos should not happen, when there are incidents then this should be shared across the industry so that risks to patients are mitigated.

Derek also reminded the conference of the need for everyone to take on their responsibility to lead by example, leadership means acting when we see something that's not right in a culture where speaking up is encouraged.

Our thanks to GovToday for their support in enabling us to attend and promote the work of MRSA Action UK.

Read more about the event on the GovToday website.

If you or someone you care about has been affected by a healthcare associated infection and you wish to discuss this with us, please contact us at

The information on this website is for general purposes only and is not a substitute for qualified medical care, if you are unwell please seek medical advice.

(c) MRSA Action UK 2014