Westminster Abbey Memorial Event, July 9th 2009


This annual event was a salutary reminder of the reason for the existence of MRSA Action UK, and this year we were honoured to meet our guest from Chicago, Illinois, Jeanine Thomas.

We have formed a strong alliance with Jeanine who is the spokesperson for MRSA Survivor's Network in the USA. You can read Jeanine's story in our special publication donated by Infection Solutions, and we thank Tom Ansboro and Dave Dunn for the work that went into producing the magazine. Tom has teamed up with our honorary member Eileen Mitchell who will be taking part in the Great North Run. Tom also plans to run in the London Marathon to raise funds for MRSA Action UK.


The service gave the opportunity for many members and their families to be together to share their thoughts, celebrate their loved ones lives and sadness for their loss, and also to pray for the strength to continue to raise awareness and the campaign to stop people contracting avoidable infections. Keeping up the momentum on the work that is being done to save lives, and counter the inappropriate use of antibiotics is something we need to keep at the forefront of everyone's minds - prevention is always better than cure.


We were also joined by Nigel Evans MP whose mother died from Clostridium difficile. Nigel joined Hayleigh Proctor in laying a floral tribute to remember all those who had been lost. The service was filmed and there will be a documentary to be screened on Thursday 17th July on Granada TV at 11.45 pm. The service will also be shown on NHS 24/7 Sky Channel 166 on Thursday 23rd July at 7.30pm and online at http://www.nhs247.tv

We were honoured to have guest speakers at the Reception, including our President, Emeritus Professor Hugh Pennington, Aberdeen University, Martin Kiernan, President of the Infection Prevention Society and Juliet Magee, Lead Infection Prevention and Control Nurse, Bedford Hospital.

Our guests' presentations were thought provoking and inspiring, and the opportunities for questions from those who had been affected provided an excellent platform to share ideas with those who can make a difference.

Richard Ellis and Debbie Mead from the Care Quality Commission heard what Bedford Hospital were doing to keep patients safe and heard Professor Hugh Pennington and members of MRSA Action UK praise the work going on. Juliet said she felt humbled to attend, and although everyone felt that she was inspirational, Juliet said it wasn't down to her, it was all of the staff at Bedford Hospital, and the support from the Chief Executive and Board that had made the difference.

We were delighted to meet Gary Oakford from Merseyside Fire and Rescue and will take the opportunity to visit their organisation to thank them for the work they are doing in Infection Prevention and Control with the Blue Light services. We were also pleased to meet up again with Murray Devine from the Department of Health, Annette Jeanes from University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Dr Andrew Pearson from the Health Protection Agency. It was an opportunity for members to meet champions who were raising awareness and changing the culture in healthcare to zero tolerance to avoidable infections and untoward events.

There is fantastic working going on in many Hospital Trusts, however our greatest fear is complacency, despite many recognising what needs to be done to make our caring environments safer, there is still disparity in the success in saving lives and raising the bar on the standard of care provided. To us the bereaved and the survivors, there appears to be a mindset that we are OK as we are, reaching John Reid's target to reduce bloodstream infections by half the level of 2004, there is still a lot to do if everyone is going to adopt a culture of zero tolerance to avoidable infections.

Every number in the Government's statistics is a person, and the illness and indignities caused by contracting avoidable infections, and the loss of life has to end. We know there will always be some infections, but the majority of infections in our healthcare settings are avoidable, the proof lays with the Hospital Trusts who have only small numbers of people who have succumbed to an infection, and the pride the staff have when they know they have done everything they can to avoid it.

We will continue to remind the Government that infection rates in the UK are still higher now than when they first came to power in 1997, and there is still a long way to go, with some Hospital Trusts still not achieving the 50% reduction a year after the target deadline, around 10% of whom had high numbers of bloodstream infections in the first place.

We must also remember that the National Audit Office has reinforced what we have been saying, only last month when the report on progress in tackling healthcare infections recognised the need to look at the wider picture, stating MRSA bloodstream infection and Clostridium difficile disease account for only 15% of all infections. The Government has indeed taken its eye off the ball with the majority of infections going uncounted and unreported, with many of our members having suffered the loss of someone who was never counted in the statistics, so we know the true cost and the true scale of the problem.

We remain the country with the highest numbers of people contracting a bloodstream infection who take part in the European Antimicrobial Surveillance System, the 2007 data shows that MSSA and MRSA combined still yield the highest numbers, we make no apology in saying we are the worst in Europe, and we also recognise that the UK has some of the most dedicated staff and professionals who are passionate about reducing this burden on society and our healthcare system.

We have the best surveillance system in the world, and we need to extend its use to track what is happening with surgical site wounds, urinary and catheter infections, and other medical devices that cause so much illness and sadly death, often in people who may have only required a very routine operation, and sometimes in people who are receiving ground breaking surgery, a strange paradigm if you consider the surgery should have provided a better quality of life.

Our Health Ministers, both shadow and Cabinet Members need to recognise that investing in Infection Prevention and Control is absolutely vital if our NHS is going to return to having the accolade of being the best healthcare system in the world.

Investing in safety means investing in quality of care, and that can only mean the best possible care for everyone in the future.

To view the tribute to those who have died and been affected click here.

To read more about the Reception click here.

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