Tackling HAIs in Scotland: A success story

Published on Thursday, 23 August 2012 15:17
Written by Michael Matheson MSP

Avoidable infections such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile (C. diff) undermine public confidence in our NHS and that is why I am determined that we continue the good work we are doing to reduce healthcare associated infections (HAIs)

It is no small achievement that we have now seen cases of MRSA and C. diff infections reach their lowest levels since recording began. The most recently published statistics show that both C. diff in over 65s and MRSA cases have fallen by over 80 per cent since the beginning of 2007.

And prudent prescribing of antibiotics is key in the prevention and control of C. diff Infection, with 24 per cent fewer prescriptions for antibacterials associated with a higher risk of C. diff being dispensed in 2010/11 compared to 2009/10.

It is important to acknowledge the efforts of everyone involved in this work to reduce HAIs – healthcare staff working across all healthcare settings, the national stakeholder agencies, HAI Task Force groups, their chairs and all the other groups and organisations that support this important work.

We have achieved this through introducing a range of measures across Scotland to drive down infection rates.

For example, the Scottish Government continues to provide substantial financial support for Infection Control Managers, Hand Hygiene Co-ordinators and Antimicrobial pharmacists' posts across NHS Boards. This funding has trebled, from £15m under the previous administration to over £50m between 2008 and 2011, and we have sustained significant funding levels to support a new and comprehensive HAI Delivery Plan from 2011 onwards.

We provide funding of over £5m per year to health boards to employ hundreds of additional cleaners. We established the Healthcare Environment Inspectorate (HEI) following events at the Vale of Leven Hospital in 2008 to provide the level of scrutiny and assurance of Hospitals in Scotland that the public expects. Every acute hospital is visited at least once in any three year period and the Inspectorate undertakes announced and unannounced inspections.

We introduced a zero tolerance approach to non compliance with hand hygiene policies across the NHS. National hand hygiene compliance is monitored and bi-monthly reports published. We have strengthened the cleaning specification and monitoring framework, to ensure the highest possible standards of cleaning and estates services across NHS Scotland.

In addition, I would like to highlight the significant amount of work that has been undertaken across NHS Boards and by Health Protection Scotland to carry out the second National Point Prevalence Survey, which was published on 4 April, and thank those involved. It is an important piece of work, providing a snapshot of all types of infections on the day of the survey. The results showed that the overall prevalence of HAI was 4.9 per cent in acute hospitals and 2.5 per cent in non-acute hospitals – a significant reduction of about a third on 2006 levels when the previous survey was conducted.Detailed scrutiny of the Scottish survey findings is now underway and will point to areas where further work is needed and we will ensure that these are prioritised for action.

When it comes to hospital infections we have made significant progress but we cannot afford to be complacent. As rates of infections decrease, it can become more challenging to drive further reductions in cases, and it is vital to sustain a clear focus on delivering the basics, such as good hand hygiene practice, the highest standards of cleaning, and infection prevention and control. Everyone – staff, patients and visitors – has a role to play in this.

And we know that we absolutely cannot rest on our laurels. The HAI landscape is constantly evolving and we must ensure that we are responsive to changing priorities, new infections and are quick to act to address new challenges. The public should expect, and receive, safe healthcare every time.

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