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Healthcare-Associated Infections Reduced by Over 50%


Wendy Cross, Head of Infection Prevention and Control

Controlling and preventing healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs), including Meticillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridioides difficile (C. difficile) infection, is a top priority for the Western Trust. The latest figures from the Trust for the year 2023-2024 show a reduction of over 50% in MRSA bloodstream infection and C. difficile cases, with the Trust having the lowest number of cases for both in Northern Ireland.

The Department of Health sets annual targets for HCAI reduction through the annual Health and Social Care Service Delivery Plan. These follow Ministerial direction, driven by national and local strategy. MRSA bloodstream infection and C. difficile infection are the two HCAIs which have reduction targets. This is because both are strongly associated with healthcare exposure, making them particularly useful drivers for improvement.

In 2023-2024 the Department of Health reduction target for C. difficile was achieved and bettered by a significant margin. The Western Trust reported an overall decrease in C. difficile cases of 56% compared to the previous year. The Western Trust was the only Trust in the region to achieve the Department of Health set target reduction.

The annual reduction target for MRSA bloodstream infection was also achieved, with a decrease of 57% compared to the previous year. It should also be noted that the proportion of cases which can be attributed to the Trust was zero, as all cases were categorised as community-associated (meaning the infection was already present before the patient was admitted to hospital). The Western Trust was one of only two Trusts which reported fewer cases than their target.

Wendy Cross, Head of Infection Prevention and Control for the Western Trust said:

“The latest Infection Prevention and Control update given at the recent Trust Board meeting demonstrates our high level of performance regarding the prevention and control of HCAIs. This requires a complex combination of measures across a range of systems that are continuously updated in line with regional, national and international evidence.

“The measures used to achieve the reductions are many and varied. They include the consistent application of evidence-based care bundles, interventions and precautions, aseptic non-touch technique (ANTT), disinfection/ decontamination, appropriate antibiotic use and hand hygiene. In addition, there is a robust system to assess compliance with best practice and an ongoing programme of improvement strategies and staff education.

“This reduction in HCAIs is improving outcomes and the experiences of care for our patients and service users. It is testament to the hard work of all our staff, from our Infection Prevention and Control Team to our Doctors, Nurses, Allied Health Professionals, Support Services staff and Technical staff, who are leading and driving forward improvements to ensure that patients do not acquire an infection whilst in our care. It is also thanks to our patients and visitors, who recognise that ‘infection prevention is everyone’s responsibility’ and support our teams by following our infection prevention and control guidance.

“However, we all know that, despite our achievements, just one preventable infection is one too many, so we cannot be complacent. We must continue to do all that we can to further reduce preventable infections across our services.”