New research has revealed a loophole in, e.g., the NHS fight against the threat of MRSA and other superbugs: Patient ID wristbands are being left unchanged for weeks at a time, creating a potentially dangerous build-up of bacteria which could lead to a microorganism outbreak.
The survey of over 400 NHS in-patients was carried out by Opinion Health (www.opinionhealth.co.uk) on behalf of healthcare technology provider Zebra Technologies. It revealed that 60% of respondents wear the same ID wristband for over a month during long-term hospital stays. This is a new hurdle to overcome in the ongoing battle by healthcare providers to combat MRSA and other microorganisms, which in 2005 caused 6,168 deaths in the UK (Office of National Statistics, February 23, 2006).
While hospitals are already working hard to improve hygiene around hand washing, hospital scrubs and equipment, this research has highlighted a new risk which needs to be addressed, said Aileen McHugh, healthcare manager at Zebra. Patient wristbands dont get changed regularly, and so they must be durable, legible and most importantly bacteria resistant.
The research from Opinion Health also revealed that contracting a new illness while in hospital is one of patients greatest fears, ahead of treatment errors. Over half of adults admitted as in-patients (53%) were more worried about the threat of microorganisms than experiencing errors with blood transfusions (2%), delays in treatment (17%) or even being given the wrong medication (16%).
These results demonstrate that patients and staff alike are concerned about the threat of MRSA in UK hospitals at the moment. However, it only takes small steps to dramatically reduce the risk, McHugh continued. Anti-bacterial wristbands are available now. These eliminate the three leading causes of hospital infection. As cases of MRSA increase, patients become more worried about contracting the disease and more aware of the standard of hygiene around them. By addressing bacterial blindspots with a few simple measures such as patient wristbands, doctors and nurses would be free to get on with their jobs.