At the Westminster Hall Debate (Raising standards of infection prevention and control in the NHS’, 15th May 2018), Andrea Jenkyns, MP for Morley and Outwood, raised her concerns regarding hand hygiene and infection prevention, and the current method of direct observation to measure hand hygiene compliance.
In this month’s Deb guest blog, Andrea shares her story, her thoughts from the Westminster debate and the role that electronic monitoring systems need to play in order to make a positive change for the future.
Where it began
In 2011, my father had been diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. The consultant advised that as we had caught it early, he could expect to live another 10 years after a lung operation.
He was admitted to hospital for a routine procedure in July 2011 to drain fluid from his lungs. A group of trainee doctors practiced on him for two and a half hours. This was how he caught MRSA and as a result, he passed away a few months later.
The quality of care my dad received was poor. We later found out that his room was located adjacent to the ward where patients were treated for MRSA, his door was always open, the room where they carried out the procedure was not sterile, and the cleaners kept their mops, buckets and cleaning products in there.
During his last months in hospital, I became acutely aware of a lack of awareness around hand hygiene from the medical staff. Since then, I have vowed to do everything I can to raise awareness around the critical importance of hand hygiene in keeping patients safe.
Campaigning to improve hand hygiene
As part of our efforts to continually drive awareness, we must look for new ways of gathering data, and encourage technological support that can be utilised to strengthen the message further, and, ultimately, provide the much-needed evidence to those in charge of our NHS premises.
In September 2016, the Government acknowledged the need for action and published its response to the Independent Review on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR). The review acknowledged that “the focus will be to reduce infections in health and care settings and the simplest way that all of us can help counter the spread of infections is by proper hand washing”.
This is good news, but a lot more needs to be done globally. Resistance has increasingly become a problem in recent years because the pace at which we are discovering new antibiotics has slowed drastically, while antibiotic use around the world is rising.
My dad was only one of 50,000 lives – across Europe and the US alone – that antimicrobial-resistant infections currently claim every year. But isn’t it time we implemented change rather than just addressing the threat of hospital-acquired infections?
The threat of Healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs)
The World Health Organisation estimates that 50% to 70% of HCAIs are transmitted by hands, and that more than half are preventable through good hand hygiene.
Yet, in the UK, a patient admitted into hospital has a 6.4% chance of contracting a hospital infection. In total, more than 300,000 patients are affected by HCAIs in the UK every year.
By collating accurate data on hand hygiene compliance, it may be possible to spot patterns of behaviour amongst staff that could lead to preventative action.
However, the current system of hand hygiene monitoring in hospitals, known as “direct observation”, allows poor hand hygiene practice to spread and can put patients’ lives at risk. It needs updating and there are better monitoring systems available.
Electronic monitoring technology – the solution to a safer NHS
Electronic hand hygiene monitoring offers the potential to improve health outcomes and save money at a time when health services are coming under increasing pressure.
In his review into NHS productivity, Lord Carter discussed the need to have real-time monitoring and reporting at NHS leaders’ fingertips. Electronic monitoring can deliver real-time, accurate data to drive behavioural change. Deb Group is currently piloting its electronic monitoring technology in two acute hospital trusts in England, which the Care Quality Commission has noted as innovative to improve hand hygiene using technology as an area of outstanding practice.
Deb Group’s analysis of publicly available data shows that on a conservative estimate, the impact of this in the UK would mean national savings of £93 million and freeing up 167,000 extra bed days – the equivalent of treating a further 35,000 patients. Not to mention, of course, saving countless lives.
Using technology, if adopted in the right way, offers an excellent opportunity improve patient safety.
In June 2018, former Health Secretary and South West Surrey MP, Jeremy Hunt, gave a statement to the House of Commons setting out the Government’s intention to increase the NHS England budget by an average of 3.4% annually until 2023, following Theresa May’s announcement of a long-term funding settlement.
In addition, the NHS is to receive a £478m technology boost, £75m of which will be available for trusts to replace paper-based systems with electronic systems.
As the NHS celebrates another milestone, now is the time to implement the changes necessary to adopt electronic monitoring systems as the appropriate hand hygiene compliance measurement tool.
In the next 10 years, policy makers, healthcare professionals and anyone involved in patient safety must come together as one and truly embrace technology in order to save patients’ lives.
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