MRSA Action UK  Memorial Reception 8th July 2010, Westminster, London 

We were delighted to welcome our President Professor Hugh Pennington, and Eileen Henderson from Hull and East Yorkshire NHS Trust to speak at the event, and there is more about their presentation and the interaction with our guests and members to follow.

There was a surprise in store for Derek, Derek's introduction and speech were interrupted, and Maria Cann stepped in to introduce our good friend Jeanine Thomas from the MRSA Survivors Network in the USA.

Jeanine stepped up and said that she wanted to make the MRSA Survivors Network Man of the Year Award to Derek "In recognition of your exemplary dedication, outstanding contribution and raising awareness of MRSA"

She said that this award is normally given on World MRSA Day, but she thought it was fitting to make the award at our Charity's Memorial Reception, she also said she wanted to make this award to show that this was an international campaign in recognition of World MRSA Day.  Jeanine then presented Derek with the award....

We asked Derek to write about his moving speech when Jeanine presented Derek with the award, we thought it only fitting he should tell you himself.....

"Many of you will know that for the past two years we have been working closely with our associate colleagues from the USA because as we know bacteria know no boundaries, and once again Jeanine Thomas founder of MRSA Survivors Network travelled over from Chicago to attend our Memorial and we thank Jeanine for travelling this great distance to show solidarity with our cause. At this year's reception to my complete surprise our colleague Jeanine from MRSA Survivors Network in the USA presented me with an award for what she described was outstanding work in the field of Healthcare Infections.  Jeanine makes this award to people who she said have contributed to making people more aware of the problem of MRSA and other Healthcare Infections.  It would seem that the Board of Trustees were aware that I was going to be presented with this award and even managed to keep this a complete secret from myself and you can imagine my complete surprise when Jeanine made the award.

Many years ago I never envisaged that I would be the Chair of a national Charity.  I became involved with the Charity, helping to set up MRSA Action UK because of one fateful night back at Christmas 2003 when as a family, we lost my stepfather.  I wanted to do this in memory of my late stepfather who died profusely infected with MRSA.  My stepfather died in my arms and I promised him before he died that I would never forget him, that I would care for his grave, and when we found out many months after his death that he died profusely infected with MRSA, I made the promise that his death would not have been in vain.

When I was presented with this award from Jeanine, I said that I was not worthy of such an award, and I still believe this to be true.  For those who know me, they know that I have never sought any reward for helping to make things safer for others in respect to Healthcare Infections.  I have always believed that "if you have the ability to correct a wrong, then you have placed upon you the responsibility to correct that wrong".  We all took on that responsibility when we became Trustees of our Charity and especially for me when you elected me to be your Chair.

I said when receiving the award at the reception after the Memorial that I would accept it firstly on behalf of my stepfather, and then on behalf of the other victims of Healthcare Infections.  Many of you will know that my stepfather is the driving force for me firstly as to why I wanted to ensure we make our hospitals safer for people to be treated in and, as I have begun to know the other victims and their families, they have become a driving force for me also.

In accepting this award on behalf of my stepfather, it wasn't just because he died from MRSA, no; it was because of what he was as a person.  Not many people were privileged enough to know my real stepfather, yes they knew him but never really got to know him deep down.  At the reception I spoke of the real person my stepfather was and that I wanted to accept the award on his behalf for something he did over 35 years ago that set him above all others to my mother and I and because he had such a big influence in my life at a time when I needed a person who I could look up to.

My mother had parted from my dad because the marriage hadn't worked, but back in the early 1970's divorce was not as easy to attain as it is today.  We moved to live with her brother, my Uncle.  My mother met my stepfather a year after she parted from my real father and my stepfather was in the British Army as he was a consummate soldier.  A year later I was involved in a terrible motor cycle accident suffering serious leg injuries and I was a young engineering apprentice earning little money.  Just twelve weeks after this accident we were told by my Uncle that we would have to get out of his house as he was moving to live with someone he had met.  He gave us just two weeks to find somewhere to live, but he knew we had very little money because of the accident.  We begged for more time but to no avail, we asked our family to help us, but again to no avail.  We approached the local authority but they said there was nothing they could do, and we asked our friends, or who we thought were our friends for help and they abandoned us.

Imagine what it must have felt like to be in a position where everything you have known, family, friends, family you thought you could rely upon, and friends you thought would help who suddenly didn't want to know and we were facing an uncertain future and the streets.  My stepfather was stationed abroad with the Army and for the first and only time in my life I had to swallow my pride and ask someone we had only known for 12 months, and who we had only seen in person for some six weeks when he was on leave to help us.  We couldn't rent somewhere decent because we didn't have enough money, but if we did have enough money I could take out a mortgage.

I spoke to my stepfather on the telephone after managing to get enough money for the call, and I explained the situation and asked him if he would help both my mother and I, and if he would lend me the money for a deposit on a house and I would pay him back.  He asked how much I needed and after speaking to my mother he promised he would help.  Seventy two hours later there was a cheque in the post for the 400 pounds we needed to put a deposit down on our first real home.  In 1975 this was a lot of money, but he had sent this money without question, without preconditions and without asking that it be paid back, my stepfather had given us hope but more importantly, he had given us our lives back.

This was the mark of the man who would have such a massive impact on my life for the next 30 plus years. He was a man who I would argue with many times over many things, but a man who held no malice to anyone and never held a grudge, he was a gentle man who was kind and loving and I loved him very much as a stepfather but more as the true friend he was.

Until Jeanine made the award to me at the reception, no one outside my mother and I knew of this story of help that my stepfather gave to us, but I wanted to share this with you so that you have an insight as to why I wanted to accept the award on his behalf, because without his help so many years ago who knows what course my life and that of my mother's would have taken.  Both my mother and I feel we have been blessed to have had someone like my stepfather in our lives.  My mother is now 76 years old, but if you ask her age she will say I am 76 but have only lived 30 years, the length of time they were together.

Many people have spoken about the passion I have for our cause, I do have a passion but if he had not helped us at that critical time in our lives I would not be the person I am today, and most likely I would never have become involved with our cause.

I owed my stepfather a debt I could never repay for that act of help he gave us, but my promise to him on the night he died, never to forget him will be one that I never break.

He and the other victims of healthcare infections are the ones who should be honoured because they paid the ultimate price, and I will never forget that either.  Thank you"


         MRSA Survivors Network 
         "Man of the Year Award"
Jeanine brought a gift of awareness wristbands with her for every member and guest at the Memorial Event.  They are teal blue and say "MRSA SCREENING SAVES LIVES".  They are pictured with the award.  Everyone will receive a wristband and if anyone requires anymore please contact us and we will either send you some or put Jeanine in touch with you.  They have already gone down well with students and younger children and supplies have been sent to those of you who asked for more.  Eileen Henderson tells us her son is wearing his and Sue Fallon and Wendy Slack have been distributing them too.

Thank you for everything Jeanine, we will be promoting World MRSA Awareness Day here in the UK.

If anyone wishes to get involved, hold an event during the MRSA Awareness month of October or get their local hospital, GP surgery, school or workplace to recognise
World MRSA Day please contact us.

Professor Hugh Pennington

The Reception continued and once again it was our privilege to introduce our keynote speaker President, Hugh Pennington, Emeritus Professor of Bacteriology at Aberdeen University.

Professor Pennington is no stranger to awards himself.  He was recently honoured with the Lister Medal.  The medal was first awarded to Sir Alexander Fleming who discovered penicillin.  Hugh followed in his footsteps when he received the Lister Medal of the Society of Chemical Industry at Aberdeen University in December last year. The medal was named after Joseph Lister, the 19th-century surgeon who pioneered the idea of sterile conditions in surgery.  The award is traditionally awarded at a ceremony in Scotland and celebrates scientists at the forefront of chemistry and medicine.   It has only been awarded 14 times since 1944, making it one of the most prestigious accolades in the field.

The presentation featured Joseph Lister and considered some of the events that had taken place in recent years, including Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells and Mid Staffs.


Professor Pennington set the scene and considered HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) and how this can be applied in mitigating the risks of contracting healthcare associated infections.

HACCP in industry is a safety case - a structured and documented body of evidence that provides a convincing and valid argument that a system is adequately safe for a given application in a given environment.  It considers what could go wrong, how bad it can be, and what can be done about it.  It was invented as a consequence of space travel, with NASA, Pillsbury and the Army. The consequence of the astronauts having diarrhoea in space was unthinkable; however there were problems with the emulsifying factors in food and toothpaste.  The safety case wasn't done properly.  HACCP evolved as a result.

The Public Inquiry into Piper Alpha in 1988 featured in the presentation.  Hugh remembered the helicopters in Aberdeen, as a consequence of the Inquiry and recommendations, the off-shore industry now have a strategy for assessing risk and safety.  160 people died in their accommodation module waiting to be rescued.  This tragic loss of life through the events that happened show you can't rely on external inspectors and assessors, 12 days before the disaster Piper Alpha received a full inspection and a clean bill of health.

It's not about spending vast sums of money either.  The Nimrod disaster in Afghanistan is an example of how not to do things; the RAF now call the Nimrod the legacy aircraft.  There was a 400,000 pound spend on a risk assessment document; it wasn't spent wisely and they didn't spot the problems.


Unless we understand the bugs and transmission and how they are acquired we cannot put in strategies to reduce them.  You need to be asking, how a patient catches an MRSA infection, or C.diff colitis.  You need to work out how they contract it, and put in measures to counteract the risks.  We may decide it is far too dangerous to have patients that are excreting MRSA or C.diff in open wards and need to isolate them.

The presentation prompted a debate around the Public Inquiry at Mid Staffs.  Dick Wallis suggested that the Charity contribute to the Inquiry and put a paper together outlining strategies to prevent errors and healthcare associated infections.  Members were asked to contribute and send details to the Chair.  If anyone has been affected by events involving the Trust and would like to contribute please contact Derek.  We did put forward a response to the Patient Safety Inquiry last year, the evidence was considered, the plea for better information for patients and the public was heeded, this may have been due to pressure applied in the Inquiry and also through more comprehensive campaigning with other organisations.
An evolving partnership to "Give Soap a Chance"

Eileen Henderson, Assistant to Medical Director, Hull and East Yorkshire NHS Trust

Special Guest Speaker Eileen Henderson, was pleased to be invited to talk about the campaign and to continue working with MRSA Action UK.

Eileen is leading the way with her community partnership raising awareness of the importance of hand hygiene with the simple message of "Give Soap a Chance". 


Eileen spoke of the drive to encourage hand hygiene and improve compliance with handwashing, with observation it became apparent that there was a need to encourage social awareness of the importance of hand hygiene, and not think of it as "just a health problem".

Hull & East Yorkshire NHS Trust were determined to reduce rates, both in hospitals and the community and joined with partners NHS Hull, NHS East Riding, the Health Protection Agency and local authorities to spread the word on the importance of handwashing.   Funding of 75,000 pounds was made available to launch the campaign and it has grown drawing in partners in the community.

MRSA Action UK found out about the campaign through the media and went to see how this was working in the region, and presented link infection control nurses with their awards for achieving their qualifications to prepare for their work in hospital and in the community.

Eileen's team worked in partnership with Bluestorm who created the campaign materials and this included educational material as teaching children and young people sets the scene for future generations and takes the message back to families and peers.  A schools pack is being launched this term.

The campaign used a variety of media channels alongside poster campaigns.  The website is a platform to download videos and techniques for handwashing, and resources for schools.

The campaign kicked off at the NHS partners Service Improvement day with local professional sports teams.

Roadshows teaching handwashing techniques and handing out posters and materials enabled engagement with the community, using shopping centres, street stalls, Agricultural shows/farmers markets, Lush hand hygiene event, Sainsbury's, Schools/colleges, Healthy Schools co-ordinators, Environmental Health Officers and Business events.

Our member and Trustee Coleen Martin was using the materials with children in Winsford where they had written a song, Coleen will be sending details to Eileen and has promised to provide something for the next newsletter so we can keep up-to-date on how this is evolving.

NHS Wales and North Lancs PCT had joined the partnership and interest had spread globally as far afield as Canada, the USA and the Ministry of Education in the Bahamas.

Eileen ended her presentation with a look towards the future and the hope to expand the campaign into the Business community - 17 billion pounds was lost last year due to sickness such as colds and flus - could we Give Soap a Chance?  We hope so.....

There were opportunities for questions and there were concerns voiced about nurses wearing uniforms out in the community.  This had been raised on a number of occasions both individually and collectively as a charity, staff sitting outside on the wall smoking where dogs were messing, staff walking dogs in their uniforms before going to work and using public transport, this was perceived as a poor image and likely to exacerbate the spread of infection.  The Memorial Event and Reception was being filmed for NHS 247 TV, we are hopeful that this footage will appear as Trust Boards should see how this image impacts on people who have lost loved ones to infections.  It is our belief that uniforms should not be worn in this way, changing facilities and showers on site should be provided, and uniforms should be laundered properly by the NHS.

Eileen was asked about the use of technology to monitor hand hygiene compliance.  Whilst this was welcomed, it was more about everyone taking ownership and raising non compliance with peers.

Derek thanked Eileen and Hugh for their time and presentations, and gave a special thank you to everyone for their attendance.  Derek also gave thanks to our families, in particular his family, who often don't see as much as they should and have to sacrifice the time dedicated to raising awareness and the support given when needed.

To view details of the Memorial Event and Service click here...

To view the tribute click here, please allow a little time for the music to download

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