While reflecting on a turbulent year for healthcare Nick Rothwell, General Manager, Mölnlycke UK & I, outlines causes for optimism as the sector looks to recover.

A year ago, few would have predicted the global health challenges that we would have faced, overcome, and continue to confront today. Despite the many difficulties, I believe that there is much hope and promise that we can take, not only from the way in which health care professionals (HCPs) have risen to the challenge of Covid-19, but also from how the health system itself has responded.

I am also proud of the way Mölnlycke’s UK Surgical Business responded to the crisis. Under difficult circumstances, and unparalleled challenges to our supply chains, we delivered significant volumes of new high quality PPE to the frontline, have provided valuable expertise to hospitals and created resources to support care delivery across the NHS. The healthcare system’s collective response to the pandemic provides huge hope as we look to tackle the challenges of the year ahead.

Quality protection

Locking down countries across the world placed significant pressure on many global supply chains. Throughout the last year, colleagues across our business have worked tirelessly to ensure the continuity PPE supply to healthcare professionals. We were delighted to receive recognition from the Health Secretary for our role in ensuring doctors, nurses and supportive staff receive high quality PPE to continue their heroic efforts.

Delivering the equipment is, however, just one half of the challenge. As a partner to the NHS, we also need to ensure that healthcare professionals are provided with high quality equipment which works for them. In 2020, Mölnlycke launched two landmark surveys which highlighted not only the high proportion of sharps injuries reported to occupational health professionals, but also the significant rates of irritant and allergic contact dermatitis experienced by HCPs in their day-to-day professional lives. Quality protection is at the heart of everything we do at Mölnlycke, and we look forward to playing our part in ensuring that the very best safety techniques are encouraged and adopted across the health system.

A Time for action

One of the by-products of the pandemic was the spotlight it shone on the vital role of infection prevention within our health and care system. As a business, we have campaigned for many years to encourage stakeholders across the health system to prioritise the reduction of all forms of healthcare associated infections

We know that the impact of surgical site infections (SSIs) on patients can be devastating, and the resulting costs to the NHS are significant. Much more needs to be done to reduce the risk of SSIs, and our landmark report, released last month: Time to Act: A State of the Nation report on Surgical Site Infections in the UK, continues Mölnlycke’s own efforts to support in tackling the challenge of SSIs. On January 20 we will be hosting a roundtable webinar in conjunction with the Association for Perioperative Practice to provide a forum for leaders across the health system to discuss how we can all act to improve infection prevention initiatives in the NHS.

Time to Act: A State of the Nation report on Surgical Site Infections in the UKkey recommendations for policymakers and healthcare membership organisations:

  • The convening of a Preventable Infections Taskforce, with expertise from across all four nations, to produce a UK-wide strategy for further reducing Health Care Associated Infection (HCAI) rates
  • Clear and deliverable targets to reduce SSIs across all surgical specialties within the lifetime of the 5-year Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) plan, and subsequently for the 20-year plan
  • Mandatory reporting of SSI rates across all surgical specialties across all four nations of the UK to continue to drive down SSI incidence
  • Healthcare membership organisations must develop ‘infection prevention hubs’ on their websites, intranet, or member communications, to share best practice and set our clear and accessible information on guideline, surveillance data and policy initiatives to reduce SSIs
  • Make SSI reduction a campaigning priority over the next three years

Reducing the elective backlog

As we look to the year ahead and even beyond Covid-19, we must help NHS trusts to reduce mounting backlog in elective care. The health system is under considerable pressure, and we know that more than a million patients across the country are waiting more than the 18-week target for treatment following their referral. Industry has a crucial role to play to ensure the NHS is able to safely treat as many patients as possible when capacity in operating theatres begins to return to ‘normal’.

With this in mind, Mölnlycke will this year be launching an operating theatre efficiencies programme, aimed at providing surgical teams with the industry-leading equipment, along with the tools and the knowledge needed to make theatres the most efficient areas of the hospital.

A new start

In spite of the challenges that we face as a country, which are reflected in every health system around the world, we can be reassured that the people of the United Kingdom are supported by the very best caregivers and healthcare professionals. Together, we need to ensure that we provide them with the best tools, frameworks and practices, to care for them, as they do for all of us. This support comes in many forms, whether it be ensuring that the very best surgical safety techniques are adopted and implemented ‘from the board to the ward’, or ensuring that the requirements for the optimum equipment for HCPs are prioritised in procurement decisions. I am hopeful that when we again reflect on the end of another year in January 2022, the NHS will be in an even stronger position.