SENIOR nurses from St George’s Hospital will join forces tomorrow to campaign for greater awareness of MRSA and the steps that must be taken to shield patients from infections of the antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The hospital’s thirty modern matrons will take to the foyers of Grosvenor Wing and Atkinson Morley Wing on Tuesday (20 September) where they will lobby staff and visitors to do more to protect patients against the spread of infections.

The day is being organised by hospital matron, Linda Smith.

“The hospital is getting better at controlling and preventing infections,” says Linda, who is matron of the Clinical Infection Unit. “We are making progress but there is a long way to go and we really need to keep up the pressure.

“We need to remind people – not just doctors and nurses but also physiotherapists, porters and anyone else who comes into contact with patients as part of their day to day work – that it is everyone’s responsibility to practice good hygiene around patients.

“Families and friends also need to be very careful when they visit their loved ones in hospital, and we would urge them to take exactly the same precautions that our staff do when they come in.”

“Not all infections can be prevented. Some are the inbuilt and inevitable risk of medical and surgical treatment.

“But others are avoidable and they’re the ones we want to focus on tomorrow.”

According to Government reports, there were 63 bloodstream infections of MRSA at St George’s Hospital in 2004/05 compared to 115 in 2001/02.

The hospital has introduced an array of measures in recent years to combat the spread of infections to patients.

Doctors and nurses have been encouraged to clean their hands with either soap and water or alcohol gel between treating patients. Alcohol gel dispensers have been distributed throughout the hospital. A special team of nurses now supervise the placing of intravenous lines, which are a known source of infections. And a pharmacist has been appointed to regulate the prescribing of antibiotics to prevent bacteria developing resistance to the medication.

Visitors are being asked by the hospital to clean their hands with alcohol gel before they enter or leave a ward, to avoid touching patients’ wounds or devices such as drips or catheters, and not to visit wards if they have had diarrhoea, a cold, chickenpox, shingles or an undiagnosed rash.

To learn more about the myths and facts of MRSA, download our MRSA factsheet here.