Of the broad range of circumstances that can give rise to a clinical negligence claim, incidents of patients acquiring MRSA or MSSA in Hospital seem to receive more TV and newspaper coverage than any other.
The term ‘superbug’ has been given to MRSA and this has instilled a degree of concern into any person who visits Hospital.
Given the fact that the risks associated with MRSA and MSSA are well known, and that the means of stemming the spread of infection within Hospital is straightforward, it is surprising that there are still a large number of complaints from patients who have gone in for routine treatment and have come away with a serious infection.
According to the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), hospital staff must take precautions to prevent the spread of infections. These precautions include:
- Decontaminating hands immediately before every incident of direct patient contact. Hands should be decontaminated with an alcohol based hand rub gel.
- Gloves must be worn for invasive procedures. This includes the changing of dressings on an open or oozing wound as well as injections and drawing blood.
- Gloves must be changed between caring for different patients. Gloves must only be worn once.
- Needles and scalpels should not be passed directly from hand to hand and needles should not be recapped before use.
In addition to central NICE guidance, all NHS Trusts must have their own infection control policy and regular audits. Should an employee not comply with either the NICE guidance or the NHS Trust’s own infection control policy, this could give rise to a claim if it can be established that it was the failure that lead to an infection.
There are many ways that infection can be spread in hospital and there is a large amount of guidance that Doctors and Nurses need to follow. When in a rush, they may not always follow this guidance.
The most common route of infection is through intravenous lines (drips). Major open wounds and non-sterile aspirations and injections are other common routes of infection.
Patients with long-term urinary catheters are also at increased risk and NICE has produced additional guidance when dealing with catheters.
Full compliance with infection prevention policies will greatly reduce the likelihood of MRSA being contracted in Hospital. In order to bring a successful claim, evidence will be required from the patient and/or their family and friends who visited them in hospital that guidelines and policies were not followed. Anyone contemplating a claim should consider:
- Did Doctors and Nurses wash their hands before and after treating each patient?
- If Doctors and Nurses did routinely wash their hands, did they use soap or some other anti- bacterial product?
- Was alcohol gel placed at the base of your and other patient’s beds?
- Did Doctors and Nurses use alcohol gel before touching you or any equipment?
- Were gloves worn for all examinations and procedures?
- Were gloves promptly changed before touching any other equipment or patients?
- Were any other patients on your ward positive for MRSA?
- Was ‘barrier nursing’ implemented for any patient with MRSA?
- Were Doctors and Nurses generally displaying a good regard to hygiene?
Successful cases involving MRSA have all utilised witness evidence from the patient highlighting a poor regard for hygiene. Examples include failure to wash hands before touching a patient’s external fixator, as well as using a needle that had been dropped on the floor.
If you believe you have a claim after contracting MRSA or MSSA, you should contact a member of our medical negligence team for an initial consultation free of charge.