Opinion Former Article

MRSA Action UK: Antibacterial wipes are not the panacea for healthcare infections

MRSA Action UK's contention has always been that to eliminate bacteria from the healthcare environment a systematic, comprehensive policy of eradication must be employed. In today's medical arena the battle against infections is not just against MRSA and Clostridium difficile, but also against the others waiting in the wings. As a Charity that has been campaigning for safer hospitals in this country all the initiatives that have been introduced to reduce infections in our hospitals will fail, if this systematic and comprehensive approach is not taken.

Hospital cleanliness is paramount for the safety of patients in the NHS, and using antibacterial wipes as a policy to keep our hospitals clean is doomed to failure.

Antibacterial wipes can be effective against pathogens such as MRSA but only if used in the right way. They should only be used once for one surface, however there is no substitute for proper cleaning and decontamination performed by staff that are properly educated and trained in this process, using the appropriate equipment and techniques. The cleaning process should be comprehensive, and we believe monitored on its efficacy, and compliant in all ways. To be successful in this decontamination process it must be supported by regular environmental testing.

We would advise patients who take antibacterial wipes into hospital that they should not attempt to clean any area that is visibly soiled or contaminated, particularly in an environment where Clostridium difficile, Norovirus or other bacteria are present, they should always bring any unsanitary conditions to the attention of nursing staff, as there would be significant risk to a patient attempting to clean such contamination where the wipes would be ineffective.

Controlling the infections in our hospitals cannot be solved by any single method, there are many ways for these pathogens to be transmitted on hands, uniforms, contaminated equipment and by the airborne route. The abject failure of this government to introduce a comprehensive system of infection prevention and control has ensured that as a nation we will stay bottom of the league with the numbers of healthcare infections in our hospitals, and until they tackle this problem head-on we will not have the safe, clean care of our neighbours in Northern Europe, where eradication of the bacteria remains a top priority.

As a Charity we have always maintained that whilst antibacterial wipes may help to prevent a patient contracting a healthcare infection, they are no guarantee, only thorough regular decontamination, and strict adherence to comprehensive infection prevention and control policies will do this.

Derek Butler
MRSA Action UK
Registered Charity No. 1115672
Telephone: 07762 741114

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