A campaign to encourage patients and visitors to cleanse their hands when they arrive at Ashford or St. Peter’s Hospitals has been stepped up this month with the installation of floor, wall and ceiling graphics along with gel dispensers at the main entry points to the two hospitals.

The graphics are part of the national CleanYourHands campaign and their application at both hospitals was developed for the Trust by local company, Bling Signs and Graphics. The development of these new signs at the main entrances and elsewhere is a new development at both hospitals although campaign posters and graphics on doors to wards and clinic areas have been a feature of hospital life for several years.

Said Consultant Infection Control Nurse Linda Fairhead: “Everyone has a part to play in helping to reduce the number of health care associated infections (HCAI) in hospitals”. We need visitors and patients to cleanse their hands on entry to the hospital and when they enter the ward or clinical area they are visiting. You can’t miss these new signs and the gel machines are simple to use with no need to touch the machine. It automatically dispenses the gel when you put your hands under the dispenser.”

Other initiatives introduced by the Infection Control Team at both Ashford and St. Peter’s Hospitals include:

  • ‘talking frames’ near ward and clinical areas which are activated by movement and remind people to cleanse their hands;
  • introduction of the Microfibre cleaning system at Ashford Hospital;
  • a review of Antibiotic prescribing guidelines and employment of a dedicated antibiotics pharmacist;
  • a review of the widely used Infection Control Manual and the introduction of Infection Control ‘outbreak packs’ to wards and clinical areas enabling them to quickly implement additional infection control measures when they are needed.

The rate of MRSA bacteraemia at Ashford and St. Peter’s has fallen to such an extent that the Trust now has the lowest rate in Surrey and levels of C. difficile have fallen significantly since July 2007 but can be driven down further. In 2006/07 there were 31 cases of MRSA bacteraemia at Ashford and St. Peter’s compared to last years 2007/8 total of 15. Of these 15 cases 7 (47%) were admitted from the community with MRSA including one from a Spanish hospital.

Since July 2007 the number of C. difficile cases in patients aged 65 years and over has dropped. There were 123 cases July to September 2007; 94 cases October to December 2007; and 68 cases January to March 2008. These include inpatients and community cases However C. difficile remains a national problem with rates increasingly significantly when areas are affected by Norovirus also known as ‘winter vomiting bug’.

Director of Infection Prevention and Control Dr Angela Shaw comments: “During the past year we have had visits from the Department of Health and South East Coast Strategic Health Authority to look at the measures we have in place to prevent and control infection in which they identified a number of areas of good practice at Ashford and St. Peter’s. We also had an unannounced inspection last year by the Healthcare Commission in which we were found to meet their requirements in all areas. They made a number of additional recommendations which have all been implemented.”