Decorations banned in fight against bugs

BANNING Christmas decorations on wards is the latest weapon in the fight hospital bug MRSA at a North hospital trust.

BANNING Christmas decorations on wards is the latest weapon in the fight hospital bug MRSA at a North hospital trust.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, which treats patients at 10 hospitals throughout Northumberland and North Tyneside has banned decorations in clinical areas to control infections.

The trust, which runs hospitals in North Tyneside plus Wansbeck and Hexham, Northumberland, as well as seven community hospitals has also switched to fibre-optic trees because they are more hygienic.

Traditional decorations such as tinsel and baubles will still be allowed in non-clinical areas such entrances and outsides of buildings. But the ban has been put in place on wards as the trust battles to bring down cases of MRSA after it breached targets set by the Department of Health.

Deputy director of nursing Debbie Reape said the decision was taken to maintain hospital cleanliness for patients.

She said: “Similar to decorations at home you can’t be sure you clean them before you put them up and put them away each year.

“We are already taking all the measures that hospitals are expected to take in relation to infection control such as hand washing and cleaning.

“This is focusing on being sensible and reducing the number of things that need cleaning.”

Gateshead Healthcare Hospitals Foundation Trust which runs the Queen Elizabeth operates the same ban in clinical areas.

Northumbria has bought fibre optic trees to display in day rooms and reception areas of the hospital for patients as well as the huge tree it displays in the atrium at Hexham

But former theatre sister and midwife at the trust Muriel Bone said her former employer had over reacted by banning Christmas decorations.

She said: “I can’t see how a Christmas tree is going to cause any infections. They collect dust but so does anything. It is dampening the patients’ spirits. It is a miserable time to start with without every sign of it being moved.”

Liz Twist, Unison Regional Head of Health, said the trust was clearly making serious efforts to tackle infection control.

She said: “This is a complex area and the most important thing is what makes a difference and what gets these infection rates down.

“It is also important for staff in hospitals to keep up spirits there as part of their recovery process. It will be important the trust makes sure it is able to look after that aspect for both staff and patients who are unfortunately in hospital over the Christmas period.”

Ms Reape said the decision to bring in the ban was made by the director or nursing Rosemary Stephenson.

She said: “There will be other Christmas activities including brass bands and Carol singing to keep the festive spirit alive.”

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Figures must be taken in context

NEWCASTLE hospitals have seen a 13% rise in cases of superbug Clostridium difficile, the steepest in the North-East.

The increase at Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is bucking the national trend which has seen a 13% decrease of the bug in patients aged over 65 in the first quarter of the financial year.

The new figures for MRSA and Clostridium difficile for the period of April to June this year were released by the Health Protection Agency yesterday.

The trust, which runs the Royal Victoria Infirmary, the Freeman Hospital and Newcastle General, saw cases of the superbug rise by 31 cases to 263 between April and June this year.

This compared to a total of 232 cases in the previous quarter, a rise of 13%

Chief executive Len Fenwick said the results were disappointing but had to be taken in context with the size of the hospital and the number of patients it treats.

“We are a tertiary centre so we receive a lot of patients from other hospitals and community settings from throughout the region and beyond. That would bring up the rates compared to other hospitals.”

The only other hospital trust in the region to see an increase was City Hospitals Sunderland which rose by just one case to 86 cases.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has made good progress bringing down the number of cases by 40 from 182 to 142.

Gateshead Healthcare NHS Foundation Trusts also saw a significant drop of 25 cases from 55 to 30 in the last quarter.

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Where the superbugs have struck

QUARTERLY counts of Clostridium Difficile in patients over 65 comparing April to June 2007 to the previous quarter:

County Durham and Darlington fell from 120 to 110.

City Hospitals Sunderland: 86 cases rose from 85.

Gateshead Health: 30 down from 55.

North Tees and Hartlepool: 122 rose from 111.

Northumbria Healthcare: Dropped to 142 from 182.

South Tyneside dropped from 30 to 29.

South Tees Hospitals: 144 down from 198.

Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals: 263 up from 232.

MRSA cases for the quarter April to June compared to the previous:

County Durham and Darlington: Dropped to six cases from 23.

City Hospitals Sunderland: Down to 11 from 14.

Gateshead Health: Rose from six to seven.

North Tees and Hartlepool: Up to nine from five.

Northumbria Healthcare: Up to 23 from 17.

South Tyneside: Dropped to two from three.

South Tees Hospitals: Up to 19 from four.

Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals: Down to 13 from 16.

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