Ashford and St. Peter’s Hospitals NHS Trust is opening further additional capacity this afternoon to help manage the current problem with diarrhoea and vomiting (D&V). The problem, which has been ongoing since Wednesday 2nd May, is now affecting nine ward areas at St. Peter’s – around 150 beds - which have been closed to new medical admissions over the bank holiday weekend.
“Unfortunately D&V is an ever present problem for some hospital patients and has been around in our local community for some time,” says Michaela Morris, Director of Nursing and Operations at Ashford and St. Peter’s Hospitals. “We have stepped up our infection control measures, including ‘deep cleaning’ of the areas affected, but we need the help of relatives and friends, and ask them to visit only if it is essential and to rigorously follow the hand hygiene advice from ward staff.
During this period we need to follow our visitor partnership guidelines more rigorously and some key points to remember are:
- No visits by any one who has had D&V in the last 72 hours or is feeling unwell
- Maximum of two visitors per patient
- All visitors to wash their hands using the gels at each door before entry to a ward and on exit
- Visitors must report to ward staff on arrival to check the latest position
- No children (under the age of 10)
- No flowers and no sitting on beds
“We would ask relatives and friends to think carefully before visiting. Whilst visits from loved ones are important we want to prevent this airborne infection from spreading further and we need to protect patients, visitors and our staff. We are also asking local people to where possible seek advice and support from other health services. Rather than attend A&E at St. Peter’s use other services if possible – NHS Direct on 0845-46-47; your own GP; NHS Walk-in Centres at Ashford, Slough, Weybridge and Woking; or the minor injuries unit at Walton. Of course individuals with life threatening conditions should phone 999.”
Five areas were closed to new admissions at the end of last week (Friday 4th May) - Aspen, Birch, Cedar, and the Coronary Care Unit (CCU) were closed on Wednesday afternoon and Falcon was closed on Friday lunchtime. Over the weekend a further four ward areas - Holly, Juniper, Kestral and May - were closed however the rest of the hospital is open as usual and areas such as day surgery are unaffected. Some scheduled surgery has had to be cancelled but if there is any need to change arrangements with a patient the Trust will contact the patient or a relative.
Further information about D&V can be found at www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk/articles/article.aspx?articleId=131 orwww.bbc.co.uk/health/conditions/diarrhoea1.shtml.
Mrs Morris continued: “We are allowing a clear 48 hours after a member of staff has recovered before they can come back to work. We have had tremendous support from neighbouring hospitals, particularly Frimley Park and Royal Surrey, and our local ambulance services, and we are working closely with our local Primary Care Trusts and the Stategic Health Authority. We would like to thank them and their staff for their assistance. We opened 18 additional beds last week and we are opening another eight (8) beds today to help us manage this problem. This should enable us to re-open to medical admissions today.”
Dr Angela Shaw, Director of Infection Protection and Control at Ashford and St. Peter’s comments: “The infection has been confirmed as Norovirus, the cause of ‘winter vomiting disease’, which despite its name can occur at any time of the year. This is highly infectious, spreading rapidly from person to person, especially when vomiting is occurring. Symptoms of watery diarrhoea and projectile vomiting can start between 12 and 48 hours after being exposed. It usually lasts for about 48 hours and has no lasting effects for most people. There is no specific treatment other than ensuring that the person affected has plenty of fluids.
“We are maintaining strict infection control precautions - hand hygiene, protective clothing where required and environmental cleaning. However the infection can be spread through the air so control over it is limited. Affected patients are being nursed in the same bays and movement between wards restricted.”
Dr Shaw continued: As Norovirus usually starts to spread after it is brought into a hospital from the community, it is vital that nobody visits the hospital who has any diarrhoea and / or vomiting, and if they have had these symptoms that they should have been free of them for at least 72 hours.
“Because of the way it is spread all visitors may be at risk and should bear this in mind if they decide to visit. All visitors should report to the nurse in charge on arrival and follow advice on hand hygiene. Hands should be washed thoroughly before and after visiting the patient. No visitor should sit on a bed and flowers are not allowed anyway. We would be grateful for the cooperation of the public while this infection is around.”
The Trust has also closed Wordsworth Ward at Ashford Hospital to new medical admissions due to D&V but it is not thought at this stage that this is connected to the infection which is being dealt with at St. Peter’s.