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Hampshire hospital slashes norovirus outbreaks by 91%

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A strategy combining high standards of cleanliness with cutting-edge robotic technology has seen norovirus outbreaks drop by 91% at a hospital trust in Hampshire.

The Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham, Portsmouth, implemented a multi-dimensional quality improvement initiative based on cleaning robots, which use hydrogen peroxide vapour to decontaminate rooms.

“By application of simple measures, we have significantly reduced the number of cases of norovirus”

Caroline Mitchell

The initiative also included staff education, enhanced patient surveillance, early automated detection and notification of infected patients as well as proactive care and control measures.

Researchers compared numbers of suspected and confirmed norovirus outbreaks at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust with regional and national data, before and after the introduction of their infection control initiative.

Annual outbreak numbers fell between 2009-10 and 2010-14 by 91% at the trust, compared with 15% and 28% for Wessex and England, respectively.

After April 2010, recorded outbreaks at the trust were eight, compared with 383 regionally and 5,063 for England, according to the study published in the journal BMJ Quality & Safety.

For the winter periods from 2010-11 to 2013-14, total bed closures due to norovirus were on average 0.5 per week at the trust, compared with 48.8 per hospital per week across the Wessex region and 37.4 per hospital per week for England as a whole.

In addition, at the trust, patients affected by norovirus-like symptoms fell by 92%, affected staff by 81% and days of disruption by 88%.

Study author Dr Caroline Mitchell, associate director for infection and patient safety, at Portsmouth Hospitals, said: “By application of simple measures, we have significantly reduced the number of cases of norovirus and other gastrointestinal viruses which can cause serious and unpleasant symptoms in patients and massively disrupt the operational capacity of the hospital.

“The combination of new technology and better training and organisation of our staff has contributed hugely to our successful results in this field,” she added.

Study co-author Dr Peter Greengross, medical director of the firm the Learning Clinic in London, added: “We believe norovirus outbreaks cost the NHS £41.5m a year. If every hospital achieved the same result as Portsmouth the savings could be £38m a year.”

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