Hospital work is raising superbug risk, says report

REFURBISHMENT of East Surrey Hospital is increasing the risk of MRSA superbug infections, according to inspectors.

Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust (SASH), which runs the hospital is now making improvements to its infection control after staff missed the opportunity to screen an MRSA-infected patient during a visit by Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspectors in December.

In the report released last week, inspectors acknowledged the hospital has come a long way in the two years since it was slammed for soiled bedsheets and blood-stained furniture, saying the wards were clean and there were anti-microbial gel containers in all the wards they visited.

Patients the CQC interviewed commented on improvements in cleanliness and care in the past two years, but inspectors concluded infection control was a “moderate concern” and needed addressing.

Despite a 50 per cent decrease in the number of cases (from eight to four) between 2009/10 and 2010/11, they said there was “a lack of consistent diligence” in the prevention of MRSA outbreaks and the long awaited expansion of the accident and emergency department could be making the situation worse.

There were five incidences of MRSA from April to December 2011 and CQC highlighted that two infections in November were preventable.

The report states: “The root cause analysis concluded that both infections were preventable and that contributory factors included: lack of MRSA screening of eligible patients on admission and lack of communication between multi-disciplinary teams.

“Based on the findings of the root-cause analysis of the MRSA infections in November, there is a clear indication of a lack of consistent diligence in the prevention and monitoring of MRSA in the hospital.

“The hospital however generally manages MRSA infections well. The action plan for the two cases in November included relevant and appropriate actions, recommendations and timescales for dealing with the causes of the infections.”

The hospital is now undergoing a £14m refurbishment programme modernise and expand the emergency unit and increase capacity by 30 per cent, which inspectors said would bring long term improvements.

However, they had concerns for the short term future. The report continues: “We are aware there that the Accident and Emergency department of this hospital is overcrowded.

“Although there is a significant investment to increase the capacity of the department (and we saw evidence of the progress throughout the hospital including the construction of the 40 bedded modular wards), the current state of the department increases the risk of infections.

“One of the MRSA infections was due to a missed opportunity to screen one of the patients at the A&E department.”

Responding to the report, chief executive Michael Wilson said the Trust welcomed the independent scrutiny of the CQC and has already put in place action plan to address the points raised by the CQC.

“We would like to assure patients that the Trust has taken concerted and focused action to address these issues and I would also wish to praise the very caring and dedicated work of many of our staff which is reflected in the positive feedback we get from our patients.

“Whilst there were a number of very positive things said by our patients, we recognise that we still have further work to do to ensure the care we provide meets the highest standards in every case.

“Following the inspection, we have invested significantly in both time and resource, to make immediate improvements and to plan and implement medium to long term changes to achieve sustainable improvements across all areas of concern.”

As part of the inspection inspectors interviewed patients for their views.

Mr Wilson said: “I was also heartened by the many positive comments that patients made to the CQC inspectors.

“They were also positive about the openness, honesty and transparency of our staff.

“Our priority is to make sure that we are able to sustain this progress and I am confident that we will be able to do this, not least because many of the actions were already in train at the time of the inspection.

“I give my absolute commitment to our patients that we will continue to make progress and ensure the right quality of care is always delivered in our hospitals.

“Complying with the strict standards which the CQC lays down is the number one priority for the Board and everyone at the hospital.”