Infection control work paying off

WORK on infection control at Scarborough Hospital is showing impressive results following a challenging two years.

The trust experienced an outbreak of superbug Clostridium difficile in Spring 2009 with a cluster of cases in April, May and June that year.

But following a number of infection control measures - and a lot of hard work from staff - the situation has improved dramatically.

The number of cases of C difficile within the trust, which includes Scarborough and Bridlington Hospitals, has reduced by 30 per cent.

As the reporting year 2010/11 came to an end on March 31, figures showed that the organisation had processed 119 confirmed cases of C diffile.

Of these 119 cases, 46 were attributed to the trust, which means that it was 20 cases below its trajectory for the year.

This is in stark contrast to 2009/10 when there were 170 confirmed cases, 77 of which were attributed to the trust.

Sue Peckitt, deputy director of infection prevention and control, said: “This is a phenomenal achievement, but we’ve not done it on our own.

“All members of staff have worked very hard to achieve this and they should be very proud of themselves.

“However, we are not complacent because we know that at any time it could reoccur.

“Patients can come to us from the community or other hospitals who already have it, so we are trying to work more closely with community staff.”

The dramatic reduction in the number of cases has come about through various changes in practice at the trust.

An isolation unit was opened as soon as the problem was identified and this remains in operation today, along with reduced visiting hours.

Deep cleaning was carried out which included the use of a high-tech hydrogen peroxide “fogging” technique, where rooms are sealed and filled with a cleansing vapour.

Fortnightly executive meetings and regular “walkarounds” were introduced, which feature a member of the trust board making a series of checks on wards with an infection control nurse.

Every commode in the hospital - 130 altogether - were replaced with a new version which is more modern and easier to clean.

More information about C difficile was made available to both staff and patients, coupled with a huge push on hand washing and the use of antibacterial gels.

Antimicrobial pharmacist Pam Garnett explained that prescribing guidelines are now also in place to help combat the problem.

She said: “Antibiotics don’t cause C difficile but if someone ingests the infection and are on antibiotics, it can multiply.

“We’ve changed the guidelines to include narrow spectrum antibiotics, which are less likely to encourage growth of C difficle.

“We’re also doing a fortnightly audit of antimicrobial prescribing and trying to encourage doctors to only prescribe antibiotics when they are absolutely needed.”

Following the success in dealing with the outbreak, the trust has been invited to share its experience at a national healthcare conference in Birmingham on June 21.

Mrs Peckitt said: “This is a real honour for the trust. The full day event will be delivered by our staff and is a great accolade for all the hard work and effort that staff have given.”