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Traffic lights system cuts cross-infection

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A simple risk assessment tool could optimise the use of hospital isolation facilities, infection control nurses
have said.

Using a ‘traffic light’ system, nurses can categorise patients based on their infection status.

‘Red’ patients need continued isolation, ‘amber’ patients need isolating but can be moved if necessary, and ‘green’ patients pose no infection risk.

This data is recorded on a spreadsheet on the hospital intranet, explained Bridget Lees, infection prevention and control nurse at Southport and Ormskirk NHS Trust, which has been using the tool for three years.

The spreadsheet can be accessed 24 hours a day but only by senior infection control nurses and bed managers, and only a senior infection control nurse can change the status of a patient, Ms Lees told delegates last week at the Infection Prevention Society (IPS) conference in Harrogate, North Yorkshire.

Isolated patients are reviewed by an infection control nurse twice a day, and information relating to infection status, such as MRSA screening results, is recorded on the spreadsheet.

‘The tool shows the infection control team who can and cannot be moved from side rooms at a glance,’ said Ms Lees. ‘It enables us to prioritise quickly and act fast, and also shows us which patients we can cohort.’

She added: ‘As well as improving efficiency, it has improved the relationship between the infection control team and the bed managers, as it removes the need for unnecessary communication.’

IPS vice-president Martin Kiernan, senior infection prevention and control nurse at the trust, said: ‘To maximise the benefits of isolation, it is vital that patients are nursed in a manner that reduces the risk of cross-infection.

‘This is a simple, cheap and easily accessible tool which acts as a reference and a measurable method of ensuring that valuable resources are not wasted.’

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