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North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust - 70 years of the NHS

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Home > News > Reducing infections in surgical wounds

Reducing infections in surgical wounds

Posted on Tuesday 17th March 2015
Sandra Williamson and Julie Mattinson

Sandra Williamson and Julie Mattinson

Patients who undergo orthopaedic surgery at North Cumbria University Hospitals now have a dedicated service to help reduce the risk of infection to their wounds.

Two specialist nurses have been appointed and a helpline set up, aimed at spotting any potential problems with wounds before they develop into a serious infection.

Sandra Williamson is surgical site infection surveillance nurse at West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven and Julie Mattinson carries out the same role at the Cumberland Infirmary, Carlisle.

The posts were created last year as part of a series of measures put in place after the CQC highlighted higher than expected cases of surgical wound infection within the Trust. A Surgical Site Infection Group was also set up, following best practice already established in other Trusts including our buddy trust, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

Sandra and Julie carry out surveillance on patients who have had elective hip or knee replacements, or neck of femur (hip fracture) surgery.

Sandra explained what their role involves: “We collect data throughout the patient’s time in hospital – on admission, after surgery, and every day while they are an inpatient – monitoring for signs of infection. One of our key objectives is improving the patient’s experience in hospital and supporting the patient post discharge via the orthopaedic helpline.”

The surgical site infection surveillance nurses’ work also goes on after a patient is discharged from hospital, to reduce the chances of readmission due to infection. Patients are telephoned by one of the nurses shortly after discharge to check if they have any concerns and that their dressing is still intact, and then again 30 days later to ask if there are any problems with the wound healing.

An orthopaedic helpline has also been set up which hip and knee replacement or neck of femur patients can call if they have any concerns regarding their wound.

Julie said: “We are usually able to troubleshoot any problems on the phone but we can ask a patient to come into clinic if we think they need to be seen in person. It’s about keeping those lines of communication open for patients.

“Infection can be devastating. It can mean a patient has to stay in hospital for longer, with potential further surgery needing to be carried out.”

Julie and Sandra submit their data on surgical site infections to Public Health England each quarter, which will then be published annually, allowing the Trust to compare its progress against other hospitals around the country.

Building upon existing good practice, the Surgical Site Infection Group have implemented several key measures to further reduce the risk of developing a surgical site infection as well as improve patient experience. This role is currently exclusive to Orthopaedics, but hopes to be expanded and available to other specialties in the future.