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NICE issues infection-fighting standards for surgery

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NICE has issued nurses and other health professionals with four simple steps it claims can help reduce surgical-site infections, saving lives and money.

The new quality standard is aimed at helping to prevent and treat surgical site infection in adults, children and young people undergoing incisions through the skin.

Surgical site infections - in which an incision area becomes infected after surgery - account for up to 16% of all healthcare-linked infections.

The rates vary for different procedures.

These include more than 10% for large bowel surgery, and under 1% for orthopaedic procedures. Such infections can frequently be prevented with the right care before, during and after surgery.

There are four main procedures - NICE’s standard outlines - which nurses and fellow health professionals should enforce.

Firstly, surgery patients should not remove hair from the surgical site, as it may raise the danger of infection. If hair must be removed, this should be done by nurses or other healthcare staff using electric clippers with a single-use head earlier that day.

Secondly, patients are also advised to have a shower, bath or bed bath the day prior to or on the day of surgery to lessen the amount of microorganisms on the skin encompassing the incision.

Thirdly, surgery patients and their carers should get data and advice on wound and dressing care, including how to spot difficulties with the wound and who to contact if they are worried.

Fourthly, surgery patients should be cared for by healthcare providers who monitor surgical site infection rates, including post-discharge, and give feedback to enable ongoing improvement.

Deputy chief executive and director of health and social care at NICE, Professor Gillian Leng, said: “These standards will aid all healthcare professionals involved in the treatment of adults, children and young people in this area.”

Chair of the topic expert group which developed the standard, Dr Peter Jenks, said: “These quality standards will assist providers, commissioners and patients in improving outcomes following surgical procedures.”


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