Headlines: April 14th, 2005

Experts from across the National Health Service and beyond will come together in London today for what’s being billed as the first ‘Clean Hospitals Summit.’ The two-day event is being staged by the Patients’ Association to look for ways of dealing with the so-called super bug, MRSA, and other infections.The summit will be a combined conference and exhibition, bringing together delegates from all areas of the health service and industry as well as concerned public organisations. It aims to establish real and practical solutions to hospital-acquired infections.

It will be chaired by Claire Rayner, the President of the Patients’ Association, who recently suffered from of MRSA herself. The event will explore a range of issues affecting patient safety, including hospital cleaning, hand washing, the use of antibiotics, decontamination, the physical environment of hospitals and the use of disinfectants and sterile barriers. Delegates will also look at how they can introduce and share good practice and technologies.

The two-day summit follows research from the Patients Association that showed sterilization of endoscopes in Britain’s hospitals was haphazard and lacking. A poll of healthcare professionals revealed that five per cent of those questioned didn’t clean their instruments between patients and more than a half reused sterilising fluid. The study found that many endoscopes never go to a Central Sterile Department at the end of each clinic. There are no uniform guidelines on who is responsible for sterilisation or on what they should do.

The Patients’ Association says it is fully sympathetic to the demands being placed on the Health Service and its staff, particularly given the need to meet financial and other targets. It says the target to halve the rate of MRSA by 2008 is commendable but believes opportunities presented to summit delegates make this achievable within a much shorter period of time.

Claire Rayner said, “Clearly, something has to be done, with a problem which kills at least 5,000 people per annum – the equivalent of a fully laden 747 crashing once a month – and in which the young and old are most vulnerable. The event will harness Britain’s top brains in the NHS and industry to lead to positive and practical solutions, and provide a platform for people to stand up and offer their own suggestions.”