‘Partners in Protection’: How Mölnlycke works with clinicians to prevent infections and support elective recovery
Lucy Catlin, UK OR Solutions Marketing Manager for Mölnlycke, tells HT how Mölnlycke works with clinicians to prevent infections and support elective recovery.
Research from the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch demonstrates that the COVID-19 pandemic has made people increasingly concerned about contracting infections in hospital settings.1 Ensuring that patients have confidence that their treatment is safe, especially in the operating theatre, will be important to the uptake of planned and elective surgery to help tackle the backlog in care.2
It is evident that breaking the chain of preventable infections in hospitals should continue to be prioritised in the wake of the crisis. Mölnlycke aims to support healthcare professionals (HCPs) to face these challenges by offering solutions to significantly decrease the risk of surgical site infections (SSIs) in patients.
Effects of COVID-19 on infection control in elective care
During the beginning of the pandemic, increased infection prevention and control protocols in operating theatres were introduced, which HCPs adapted to brilliantly. These additional measures required more preparation time, reducing the amount of time in the day available to complete operating procedures, and therefore resulting in fewer non-urgent patients being treated.3
However, as the pandemic has progressed over the last two years, COVID-19 related infection prevention protocols have been adapted to help return the volume of elective care procedures to pre-pandemic capacity.3,4 With the focus now on elective care recovery, we must ensure that infection prevention remains a top priority to support patient safety which does not fall off the agenda, and clinicians are adequately supported to deliver this in the operating theatre.
How can Mölnlycke’s solutions help ‘break the chain of infection’?
Most SSIs are caused by contamination of an incision with microorganisms from the patient’s own body during surgery.5 While they can cause considerable harm to patients, up to 60 per cent of SSIs are preventable, demonstrating the need for the health system and its partners to actively work together to tackle the problem.6
Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is a notable example of how SSI rates can be reduced by assessing risk across the whole patient pathway. The Trust were able to put in place multiple changes simultaneously, from pre-operative chlorhexidine washing and patient pre-warming, through to an oozing wound protocol. Ashford and St Peter’s were successful in reducing their early infection rate from 5 per cent to 0.24 per cent, which GIRFT estimates saved the Trust £2m. This proved adopting a multidisciplinary approach, in collaboration with industry partners, can have a positive impact on infection rates.7
Additionally, creating an environment within clinical teams where there is open dialogue with patients, including providing education on SSIs, could be part of wider solutions. When patients are empowered with the information they need to prepare for surgery and to improve their chances of recovery, they can work collaboratively with clinical teams to make decisions about their own care. Ultimately, patient-centred approaches and patient safety should be at the heart of breaking the chain of infections.
This multidisciplinary approach with the patients’ perspective at its centre is critical in assessing both risks and opportunities along the pathway. Mölnlycke have a range of solutions across the patient pathway, from pre-operative to post-operative surgical care to help minimise the risks of SSIs. For example, the Mölnlycke BARRIER® EasyWarm® blanket can be used in line with NICE guidelines which recommend active warming should start at least thirty minutes prior to induction of anaesthesia, with an earlier start to active warming required if the patient has a temperature under 36 degrees to reduce the risk of perioperative hypothermia, which is associated with poor outcomes for patients.8,9
Where are we heading next?
Beyond equipment to improve SSI prevention, there needs to be wider changes to the healthcare system to tackle the structural barriers to further reducing SSIs in the operating theatre. This includes the need for consistent, mandatory SSI reporting across all surgical categories.10 Acknowledging the clear challenge around SSIs, Mölnlycke developed a first-of-its-kind report, Time to Act, to explore the current landscape and recommend system-wide changes and partnership opportunities.
The report sets out a range of recommendations for stakeholders across the healthcare system, including policymakers and hospital teams. These include supporting investment in training and education of HCPs, as well creating infection prevention strategies across the UK, for example through a Preventable Infections Taskforce.
Hospitals should also support HCPs where possible to ensure they have the skills and equipment they need to perform surgery in a way that is safest for patients. It is vital that HCPs are engaged in a dialogue about safety, efficiency, and use of infection prevention solutions. This ensures procurement teams have all the right information about the safety and quality of products for them to make informed, value-based choices.
While we address the elective care backlog, we must ensure that patient safety is not compromised in the process. Healthcare professionals can be supported directly to put in place best practice solutions and processes, but there also needs to be wider system support to ensure that reducing the risk of SSIs is prioritised. Mölnlycke is committed to supporting healthcare professionals, hospitals, and policymakers to improve outcomes for patients.
1 HSIB (2020) COVID-19 transmission in hospitals: management of the risk – a prospective safety investigation, https://hsib-kqcco125-media.s3.amazonaws.com/assets/documents/hsib-report-covid-19-transmission-hospitals.pdf
2 Lee, G., Clough, O.T., Walker, J.A. et al. The perception of patient safety in an alternate site of care for elective surgery during the first wave of the novel coronavirus pandemic in the United Kingdom: a survey of 158 patients. Patient Saf Surg 15, 11 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13037-021-00284-8
3 NHS (2022), Delivery plan for tackling the COVID-19 backlog of elective care. p20. Available online: https://www.england.nhs.uk/coronavirus/wp-content/uploads/sites/52/2022/02/C1466-delivery-plan-for-tackling-the-covid-19-backlog-of-elective-care.pdf
4 GOV.UK (2021) UKHSA publishes new recommendations for COVID-19 infection prevention and control https://www.gov.uk/government/news/ukhsa-publishes-new-recommendations-for-covid-19-infection-prevention-and-control
5 NICE guideline NG125, Surgical site infections: prevention and treatment https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng125/chapter/Context
6 Diaz et al (2015) Surgical Site Infection and Prevention Guidelines: A Primer for Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists, AANA Journal, 83;1 https://www.aana.com/docs/default-source/aana-journal-web-documents-1/jcourse6-0215-pp63-68.pdf?sfvrsn=1ad448b1_6
7 GIRFT SSI National Survey 2019 https://gettingitrightfirsttime.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/SSI-Report-GIRFT-APRIL19e-FINAL.pdf
8 Clinical study to assess the safety and efficacy of BARRIER® EasyWarm®, an active self-warming blanket used to prevent hypothermia. Data on file. 2012.
9 NICE guideline CG65 Hypothermia: prevention and management in adults having surgery https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg65/chapter/Context
10 Mölnlycke (2020), Time to Act: A State of the Nation report on Surgical Site Infection in the UK. Available on request.
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