Healthcare Acquired Infections (HCAIs, or sometimes healthcare-associated infections) can develop either as a direct result of healthcare interventions, such as medical or surgical treatment through contaminated hands, clothing or equipment. They can also emerge as a result of contact with harmful bacteria within a healthcare setting e.g. contaminated water splashing from a tap.
HCAIs cover any infection contracted:
According to the 2012 Health Protection Agency operations guidance and standards, the term ‘HCAI’ covers a wide range of infections. The most well-known include:
Almost all pathogens associated with HCAIs are waterborne and originate this way.
They are transmitted in a variety of ways, including touch through poor or infrequent hand washing, water splashing onto sterile equipment, clothing or patient beds which then come into contact with patients and from airborne water (aerosol), which is inhaled by patients.
According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), it is estimated that in England, 300,000 patients a year acquire an HCAI as a result of care within the NHS. The most common types of HCAIs are respiratory infections (including pneumonia and infections of the lower respiratory tract) standing at 22.8%, with urinary tract infections reporting 17.2% and surgical site infections accounting for 15.7%.
Dr. Paul McDermott, a leading Microbiologist and waterborne pathogen expert, stated:
“It is commonly recognised that water outlets such as taps and showers can harbour harmful bacteria, and can easily transmit this to vulnerable patients – so handwash stations now need to be treated as medical devices rather than just sanitaryware”.
HCAIs pose serious risks to patients, clients, staff and visitors of health and social care premises. They can incur significant costs to the NHS and others, causing significant morbidity and mortality for those infected. In addition, those people who do survived often experience life altering on-going health issues throughout their life.
The Cost of HCAIs in the UK
The NHS states that 1 in 26 inpatients will contract an HCAI. However, some published figures show the percentage at 6%, or even more.
An average NHS inpatient stay is published as being 3.5 days, but this figure inflates to 21+ days if the patient contracts an HCAI. At an average cost of £400 per day per patient, these increased costs are increasingly severe. What’s more, special costly antibiotics are needed to try to tackle such infections, such as Legionella bacteria or Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
These costs, compounded with growing litigation costs and the higher levels of activity required to keep water systems safe, means that HCAIs incur costs in excess of £40m per hospital, per year.
Jim Shannon, MP, said:
“UK healthcare associated infections cost lives and money. Some 300,000 healthcare-associated infections every year cost the NHS in excess of £1 billion annually. If we could encourage Government to roll out their strategy to reduce hospital infections and to publish their staff hand hygiene indicator, that would give us a methodology whereby we could do that. We look forward to the Government’s response on that.”
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Mighty Michael and the Blasted Biofilm’ tells the story of a child, who overcomes their fear of what lurks beneath the sink with the help of an unlikely friend.