Most NHS trusts unaware of impact of HAIs

Most NHS trusts are unaware of the full scale, cost and impact of healthcare-acquired infections, such as sepsis and norovirus, a report reveals.

Fifty eight per cent of the NHS trusts which responded to a Freedom of Information request are failing to collate the total number of cases of five common infections.

Three-quarters keep no records at all of the number of associated deaths.

The vast majority of trusts that responded – 88% – are completely unaware of the financial burden or operational impact of healthcare-acquired infections.

Just one trust said that it measured the total number of extra nights that patients stay in hospital due to infections acquired in the course of their treatment.

The main findings of the report, by the Medical Technology Group, were:

– Six out of ten trusts do not collate the total number of cases of sepsis; norovirus; urinary tract infections and blood infections caused by catheters; and pneumonia from ventilators.

– 30% of trusts record some of these infection but not all them

– Only 12% of trusts recorded the total number of these five common types of infection

– 76% do not collate the total number of deaths relating to these infections (just 18% record some but not all of them)

– 88% keep no records of the financial cost or operational impact of healthcare-acquired infections

Barbara Harpham, chair of the Medical Technology Group, said: “NHS Trusts are only required to report on infections such as MRSA and E.Coli. Rates of these types of infection have fallen in recent years, but the risk is that this leads us to believe the problem has gone away.

“There is complacency across the NHS about other healthcare-acquired infections. At a time when anti-microbial resistance is growing and more resistant strains are coming through, this is ludicrous.”

The report finds there is huge regional variation in the number of infection control staff per bed – from one member of staff for every 71 beds in London to one for every 161 in the East Midlands.

Furthermore, some trusts have received instructions to reduce expenditure on infection, prevention and control in the last five years.

The report, called Infection Prevention and Control – Combatting a problem that has not gone away, finds a surprisingly low number of infection and control business cases have been submitted in recent years, with the majority of trusts failing to submit any at all.

Nevertheless when they are submitted, most of them (86%) are effective.

Harpham added: “We must put an end to the perverse situation where NHS trusts are reimbursed when they treat patients who acquire an infection in that trust’s hospital. If trusts are hit financially, it will force them to take infection control more seriously.”

76 NHS trusts responded to a Freedom of Information request from the Medical Technology Group between March and July 2014. The Medical Technology Group is a coalition of patient groups, research charities and medical device manufacturers.

MTG’s five recommendations:

1.) NHS trusts must be required to record the total number of cases and associated deaths from sepsis; catheter-associated urinary tract infections; catheter-related blood infections; ventilator-associated pneumonia; and norovirus.

2.) Trusts must be required to record the total number of nights patients stay longer in hospital each month owing to a healthcare-acquired infection.

3.) Trusts should receive no financial reimbursement for readmissions and bed days relating to a healthcare-acquired infection that was acquired within the trust itself.

4.) Device surveillance should be mandatory for all hospital wards.

5.) The Government should develop a strategy for using technology for infection prevention and control, and engage with industry on solutions for this.

Read the full report.