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Protecting patients against infection  

Barts and The London NHS Trust takes infection control very seriously.  We have robust policies in place to reduce the risks of patients contracting infections, including MRSA, while they are in one of our hospitals.  What is MRSA?

Testing patients

We test hundreds of patients for MRSA every day. We screen patients who are most likely to be carrying MRSA as soon as they are admitted to one of our hospitals. We also carry out random checks on all other patients to ensure they are not infected.

Diagnosing patients

A tiny proportion of patients admitted to one of the Trust’s hospitals are diagnosed with MRSA. Between April 2005 and March 2006, 67 patients were diagnosed with a MRSA bloodstream infection. This represents 0.068 per cent of the 97,329 patients admitted during this period. MRSA infection rates at Barts and The London hospitals are comparable with most other specialist hospitals in London and we are implementing several measures to improve this further.

Reducing MRSA infection rates

Barts and The London is one of 10 partnerships chosen to take part in the Safer Patients Initiative, an international programme run by The Health Foundation and the US-based Institute for Healthcare Improvements (IHI). The aim is to focus on improving patient safety on the wards, before, during and after surgery, and in critical care. In each setting, clinicians work on improving infection control, which will be measured through the submission of monthly data, such as MRSA rates, to the IHI.  The two-year programme aims to achieve a 50 per cent reduction in MRSA bloodstream infection.  We have also signed up to the Department of Health’s ‘Saving Lives’ toolkit – a programme to help hospitals reduce healthcare-associated infection.

Treating patients

Patients who are most likely to be carrying MRSA are washed daily in powerful anti-bacterial soap and are given a nasal ointment proven to kill the bacteria as soon as they are admitted to one of our hospitals. This treatment only stops if tests confirm they are not carrying the bacteria. Patients who are found to be carrying MRSA are isolated and are given stronger medication to destroy the bacteria. This treatment only stops when tests confirm they no longer have MRSA. 

Safeguarding drugs

MRSA can be treated using drugs. We are extremely careful about which medicines we use to treat MRSA infections. Patients are only given the strongest medicines when absolutely necessary. This reduces the risk of new drug-resistant strains of the bacteria emerging.

Cleaning hands

Our staff take great care to clean their hands with medicated lotions proven to kill MRSA before examining patients. There are over 1,500 alcohol gel dispensers across our three hospitals, for use by patients, staff and visitors. Everybody is urged to clean their hands immediately before and after they come into contact with patients. Patients are urged to ask staff if they have washed their hands before their examination. Cleaning your hands with soap and water or with the medicated lotions at the end of every patient’s bed and in every hospital ward reduces the risk of infection.

Dedicated team

The Trust’s dedicated Infection Control Team, made up of a senior doctor and six senior nurses, spearheads our efforts to protect patients against MRSA. Along with the Trust’s microbiology team, they are at the forefront of research to find new ways to fight MRSA. They also provide infection control support for Newham University Hospitals NHS Trust and East London & the City Mental Health Trust.

Groundbreaking research

We are involved in groundbreaking research into infection control, including a multi-centre trial to see if pioneering pyjamas and bed linen with cloth containing silver could combat MRSA infections. Silver is known to be an effective agent against infection and there is strong anecdotal evidence that it can be used to clear MRSA on the skin.