Healthcare associated infections - public and patient information campaign 

Learning and Sharing Event
24th February 2010

Warwick University Campus, Coventry

Healthcare associated infections remain high on the agenda for the NHS. A lot of work has been done to tackle this issue, and some progress has been made, yet public confidence remains low, principally we believe because of the tragic experiences of those who continue to be adversely affected and the media coverage this attracts. Other influencing factors are reports published by the National Audit Office showing that only part of the problem is being tackled with the MRSA bacteraemias being just the tip of the iceberg. It is clear that much more needs to be achieved to raise awareness of what actions are being taken to tackle infections and inform the public.

The Department of Health have commissioned the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement to address perceptions around healthcare associated infections. The Institute are developing a campaign and an associated suite of resources to influence public and patient attitudes around healthcare associated infections to build public confidence in clean, safe care in the NHS and to help the public understand their role in helping to alleviate the problems caused by infections.

Campaign materials and approaches are to be co-designed and co-developed with patient groups. Members of MRSA Action UK will be directly contributing through relating their experiences to obtain the patient and carer perspective and to help advise on the development of the materials, we are delighted that we were able to persuade the facilitators to draft in the help of Eileen Henderson, Assistant to Medical Director at Hull and East Yorkshire NHS Trust, she was contacted after we raised the profile of the "Give Soap a Chance" campaign with the Department of Health and the consultants working with the Institute on the project. Eileen was able to help with facilitating the HCAI online project; the website will be launched on the 18th March which coincides with the next event.

The four key objectives of the project are:

1.   To raise the confidence of NHS staff in initiating direct communication with patients around healthcare associated infections

2.   To raise public awareness of the measures being taken by the NHS to reduce healthcare associated infections and keep hospitals clean and safe

3.   To inform patients of the role they can play in helping reduce healthcare associated infections

4.   To inform patients and the wider public so that they have a greater understanding of facts surrounding healthcare associated infections and cleanliness

To achieve these objectives tools will be created to include:

1. Resources to help Pre-Operative Assessment staff to have the right conversations with patients
2. Resources which Comms teams can use to support an awareness raising campaign aimed at patients
3. A PR toolkit to support Comms teams in dealing with the media and public regarding HCAI
4. A website to host the resources
5. A strategy to evaluate the effectiveness of the project

To help the Institute to create these resources staff from 10 Acute Trusts across each Strategic Health Authority were invited to participate.

The event was well attended and we took the opportunity to network, share good practice and come away with ideas on how we can also help to promote the campaign. We formed an alliance with East Midlands Strategic Health Authority leads on infection prevention and control and will also help with promoting their "Hand in Hand" campaign. Derek Butler gave an overview on the patient and relative experience with a perspective on how to engage giving a key focus on what was needed to equip professionals with the skills and confidence to have conversations with patients about MRSA and healthcare associated infections.

Derek received further invitations to speak at East Midlands Strategic Health Authority, and from Kate Jones, Head of Safer Care at the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement.

Catherine Holmes presented the emerging findings showing the fieldwork that had taken place since the national research into public perceptions of healthcare associated infections.

We have worked hard to get this campaign under way and look forward to working on this project and hope to be able to help all staff have the confidence to engage with patients and carers and have the right conversations with them, raising awareness of the important part everyone has to play in helping to safeguard against what are largely avoidable infections.

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