Report calls for urgent action to drive down surgical site infections

Report calls for urgent action to drive down surgical site infections
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The ‘Time to Act’ report has highlighted that one in 20 patients who undergo a surgical procedure in the NHS contract a surgical site infection (SSI), and is now calling for action to reduce these types of infection.

The report, launched by medical solutions company Mölnlycke and with support and contributions from clinical experts, details the impact SSI’s have on patients and the NHS, and profiles perspectives and best practice recommendations from clinicians working on the frontline of infection prevention.

It reveals that one in 20 patients who undergo a surgical procedure in the NHS contract an SSI, however, 60% of these infections are preventable. Every SSI is estimated to cost between £10,000 to £100,000 per patient, significantly increasing the cost for NHS hospitals, at a time when budgets are already under extraordinary pressure from COVID-19.

Immediate action

The report finds that the NHS cannot drive down infection rates alone, and policymakers, patient organisations, and the Royal Colleges must support the NHS in its effort.

It highlights that the challenge must be prioritised across the UK by policymakers, and calls for: the convening of a Preventable Infections Taskforce, with expertise from across all four nations, to produce a UK-wide strategy for further reducing Healthcare Associated Infection (HCAI) rates; clear and deliverable targets to reduce SSIs across all surgical specialities within the lifetime of the five year Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) plan, and subsequently for the 20 year plan; and the mandatory reporting of SSI rates across all surgical specialities across all four nations of the UK in order to continue to drive down SSI incidence.

Professor Mike Reed, Consultant Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgeon at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Chief Investigator for the Quality Improvement for Surgical Teams Infection collaborative, said: “SSIs can ruin lives, potentially resulting in months of additional operations and leading to devastating consequences for patients and their families. There is also a significant cost to the NHS and wider health outcomes for the UK. To meet the challenges we face from SSIs, we need to convince people of the nature and scale of the problem. Stakeholders from across the health system, including patients, healthcare professionals, industry and policymakers need to be aware of the challenges, and work together to help construct and embed the solutions.”

Best practice

The report also calls on medical Royal Colleges and other healthcare membership organisations to develop ‘infection prevention hubs’ on their websites, intranet, or member communications in order to share best practice and set out clear and accessible information on guidelines, surveillance data, and policy initiatives to reduce SSIs, and to make SSI reduction a campaigning priority over the next three years.

Lindsay Keeley, Patient Safety & Quality Lead at the Association of Perioperative Practice, and contributor to the report, said: “The prevention of HCAIs requires multidisciplinary and collaborative approaches at every level of the NHS. With surgical site infections often not noticed until at least four to five days after surgery, there is no one silver bullet to reducing their prevalence. We need to make a concerted effort to increase SSI surveillance across all categories of surgical procedures to bring about change within the healthcare system.

“Influencing healthcare professionals within their first year of education, through evidence-based practice can help them build the knowledge and information required to influence practice, drive down preventable infections, and reduce the risk of SSIs for the benefit of the patients and the NHS.”

The report highlights that across the NHS and the world there are good practices being employed to help reduce the number of SSI’s, for example, the Getting It Right First-Time programme and the Quality Improvement for Surgical Teams (QIST) programme are both recognised as driving forward significant improvements in patient care.

Mölnlycke and the Association for Perioperative Practice will be hosting a digital roundtable discussion bringing together leading clinical voices, patient groups, and other high-level stakeholders from across the health and care landscape to discuss the issue.


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