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Monday, 9 March 2009

Patient safety has to be at the forefront of the Welsh NHS

This Western Mail article regarding NHS safety breaches is a cause for concern for anyone working in the NHS, as well as to patients.

Patient safety is paramount at all times in the Welsh NHS, but it would perhaps be naïve to think ALL risks can be removed. For instance, when the health service is running at full capacity, with staff under pressure to get patients in and out of hospital quickly, it is inevitable patient care will suffer at some point. It is also at times like this, with such a high turn over of patients, that cleanliness standards are likely to fall, which can lead to the spread of hospital acquired infections such as C. difficile. Just last week the Welsh Conservatives published figures showing the rate at which such infections are spreading in Wales.

Here are a few of the recommendations the BMA has made in the past in trying to prevent such incidents of hospital super bugs;
• Healthcare professionals must follow hygiene standards relating to hand washing. Effective hand hygiene is the single most important intervention in infection control.
• Hand hygiene needs better ward/clinic design and provision; hot water and liquid soaps play an important role.
• Health professionals are duty bound to ensure that they and their colleagues fulfil their responsibilities with regard to infection prevention and control. Senior staff should lead by example.
Health care settings must be kept clean and dust free. Clinical and non-clinical waste must be disposed of effectively and appropriately.

It’s easy for such basic hygiene measures to fall by the way side, when the pressure is on NHS staff for a quick turn around in treating and discharging patients.
It is also worth highlighting a recent report from the Welsh Liberal Democrats,which showed how unsafe actual NHS buildings are, for both staff and patients, because basic, yet essential maintenance work, isn’t being carried out.

It isn’t really until you start delving a bit deeper and really looking behind these figures that you can identify such issues and then start putting them right. And these statistics show just how important an initiative one like the Save 1,000 Lives Campaign really is, which was set up with the primary aim to reduce risks to patient safety.

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