Firstly I’d like to wish you all a very happy new year. I hope you all had the opportunity for some rest and relaxation over the festive period and I’d like to thank everyone who worked, caring for patients and making their time in hospital as good as it could possibly be.
We know that January is one of the busiest times of the year and last week we held a system-partners Reset Week to really focus on patient flow and discharge, and put the hospitals in the best possible position to cope with this increased demand.
Something I’d particularly like to highlight during this busy time is the importance of good, consistent, infection prevention and control practices. Whilst I know, in times of extreme pressure, it can be difficult to manage everything, it’s really important we prioritise this. Poor infection control practices can lead to an increased risk of transmission and spread, resulting in patients who are more unwell and spend longer in hospital. This is neither good for the patient or helps us to manage our bed capacity and flow. If we get to the stage of having to close bay areas (due to the outbreak of flu or norovirus for example) it makes it even more difficult to manage. We then have to start using extra infection control measures in the care of these patients, which is more involved and time-consuming, creating additional capacity challenges. It can become a vicious circle and the best way to avoid an outbreak is good basic practice.
A good example is the weekly audits undertaken of commode hygiene. Recent results have not been as good as they should be and whilst maintaining the cleanliness of commode and toileting equipment seems such a basic element of care, it’s really important. Micro-organisms, such as C difficile and other bacteria affecting the gut, can live for up to twelve months in the environment. At this time of year, with viral illness peaking, particularly flu and norovirus, infection could easily be transmitted from equipment such as commodes. Especially when you think that patients hands will touch this equipment.
I know you will have seen lots of communications on this already but the other key element is to protect ourselves, patients and families, against flu by receiving the vaccination. We currently have a staff uptake rate of around 66% which is great progress but to achieve ‘herd immunity’ we need to get that number closer to 80%. We are seeing flu cases in the hospitals and interestingly not so much in older people, but in younger people, some of whom have been very unwell. We believe the reason for this is that older people are more likely to be offered the vaccination – evidence that it is working.
I really can’t emphasise enough how important it is that we get this right. It’s one of the most important safety and quality measures we have for patients and the impact of avoidable infection can be very serious.
With thanks for your ongoing support and best wishes,