Infections at Royal Surrey

Infections that occur in a hospital or healthcare environment are called healthcare associated infections (HCAI).  The most well-known cause of HCAI is Meticillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Staphylococcus aureus (SA) is a type of bacteria that can cause infection when it gets in a patient’s wound, lungs or bloodstream, but it is normally sensitive to an antibiotic called meticillin and related antibiotics such as flucloxacillin. MRSA is a particular type of SA which is resistant to this group of antibiotics.

Another well-known HCAI is caused by Clostridium difficile or C. difficile for short. This causes an infection of the bowel, which then causes patients to have diarrhoea. It’s something that is more likely to affect elderly patients who have been taking antibiotics.

In  2013-14 the Royal Surrey MRSA Bacteremia (blood stream infection) rate was  1.3  per 100,000 bed days (the national average was  1.2) and the rate for C.difficile was  16.8 per 100,000 bed days (the national average was  14.7). Please see tables below

All staff here are working hard to try to ensure that these infections are reduced so that the risk to patients is minimised.


Who gets these infections?

Around 6% of all patients in hospitals across the country have an HCAI at any one time.

What causes infection?

Infection can happen when bacteria enter part of the body at a place where they are not meant to be. For instance, they can enter:

  • through a wound or cut (including a cut made during an operation);
  • through a medical device that is inserted into the body – such as a drip into a vein or a catheter into the bladder;
  • when we breathe (in the same way as when you catch a cold);
  • when we swallow them, if the bacteria are on our fingers or in food – which can then result in food poisoning.

Why does infection happen in a healthcare environment?

Healthcare associated infections (HCAIs) can happen in any healthcare environments including acute hospitals, outpatient departments and long-term care facilities such as nursing homes.  These infections happen because people who are in healthcare facilities are usually more vulnerable to infection due pre-existing disease, surgical procedures, medical treatments, indwelling medical devices (e.g., urinary catheters, intravenous infusions, implants) or a weakened immune system due to disease or  treatment. As people age and become frail they also become more likely to pick up infections.

How can I prevent it happening to me or others?

Please see’ what you can do to help us’, Patient’ section

What if I get an infection?

If you get an infection staff will advise you what you and they will do to treat the symptoms and help you recover. This may mean that you are moved to a side room or that staff will wear aprons when treating you. This is to prevent other patients getting the infection.

Can I still have visitors?

Yes, visitors are still allowed. MRSA or other antibiotic resistant infections doesn’t normally harm healthy people. Please see ‘what you can do to help us’, Visitors section.

Where can I find more information on this or similar issues?

There are lots of different sources of advice. You can ask a nurse or doctor on the ward who will be able to answer your questions.

You can also visit or contact NHS Choices by phoning 111.


©2019 Royal Surrey County Hospital

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