"St George's Healthcare NHS Trust replies:"

About: St George's Hospital (Tooting) (London)

Tackling hospital acquired infections is a top priority at St George’s. The Trust recently made improvements to its Infection Control Strategy, increased communication with staff - clearly defining their responsibilities - and introduced best practice initiatives from other NHS organisations.

The hospital’s new Infection Control Taskforce, lead by its Chief Executive and Executive Directors, set up in March 2007, ensures hospital acquired infections are minimised. As part of its intensive campaign to drive and keep infection rates down, the Trust has also strengthened its efforts in many other key areas including; compulsory hand hygiene, stringent cleanliness, and the safe care and placing of intravenous lines. Through radical changes and a robust approach the Trust has created a much safer environment for all its patients.

The benefits are already evident. In April 2007 the Health Protection Agency reported St George’s Clostridium difficile (C.diff) rates had risen by one per cent. While much lower than the national average of eight per cent, the Trust has not been complacent, but has introduced safeguards to bring about further reductions.

C.diff is a problem for all hospitals. It is a naturally-occurring micro-organism that causes illness when certain antibiotics upset the 'normal' gut bacteria. As all hospitals constantly have patients requiring antibiotics; the risks can never be completely eliminated – only reduced. To maximise this reduction, the Trust has employed a specialist on site pharmacist to regulate the use of antibiotics. In addition throughout their stay, St George’s inpatients are regularly monitored for signs of infection.

Before being admitted, patients transferred from other hospitals or nursing homes are screened for MRSA and constantly monitored. The Trust is currently meeting national targets for the reduction of MRSA bacteraemia. Arrival of new equipment later this year means St George’s will also be able to diagnose MRSA within two hours, making it one of the few hospitals in Britain able to do so.

Stringent controls have been implemented to the way suspected infections are reported and managed. Confirmed cases are treated as a serious incident, resulting in the patient being isolated and their consultants carrying out immediate investigations and reporting back to the Taskforce. These investigations help the Trust to focus its attention on where it needs to do better.

Staff at St George’s are working hard to make sure the hospital is as safe as possible and patients are protected. Our patients and their relatives quite rightly have high expectations of hospital cleanliness. The Trust works closely with two cleaning providers constantly managing their performance. The Trust has invested heavily in additional cleaning and commenced a programme of deep cleaning wards. However, we know there are areas where things can be done better. Patients and visitors can help us make further improvements by reporting anything untoward, to a member of staff immediately so it can be dealt with promptly. Alternatively you can contact the PALS Team on 020 8725 2453.

Marie Grant,

Director of Operations

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