HCAIs have a significant impact on patient outcomes and NHS expenditure in England.
Healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs) are illnesses that occur as a result of healthcare interventions – such as surgery, use of medical devices, or the care environment. They are a major problem across the globe (with over 800,000 cases reported annually in the UK alone), resulting in increased morbidity, mortality, and healthcare costs.
According to a report published by Public Health England (PHE) in 2018, healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs) in England resulted in an estimated 2.9 million extra bed days, 1 million prescriptions for antibiotics, and an estimated cost of £1 billion annually to the NHS.
The report also highlighted the impact of HCAIs on patient outcomes. It found that patients with HCAIs had a 2-20 times higher risk of mortality compared to those without an infection. In addition, HCAIs can lead to prolonged hospital stays, increased risk of further illness and decreased quality of life for patients.
The report emphasised the importance of preventing and controlling HCAIs to improve patient outcomes and reduce the financial burden on the NHS. Effective strategies include hand hygiene, infection control measures, appropriate use of antibiotics, and regular monitoring and surveillance of HCAIs.
However, the immediate cost of treating HCAIs is not the only expense associated with these infections.
HCAIs have hidden costs that can have a significant impact on healthcare institutions, patients, and society as a whole.
1. Additional Staffing
HCAIs require additional staff to manage and treat infected patients. This includes nurses, doctors, and other healthcare professionals who must provide extra care and support. With healthcare resources often already spread thin, this extra pressure can result in unmanageable workloads – which may unfortunately lead to inefficiencies, lower quality of care and staff burnout.
2. Specialist Equipment and Testing
HCAIs may demand the use of specialist equipment, such as isolation rooms and powerful cleaning supplies, to prevent an ongoing outbreak of infection. They could also require additional diagnostic tests - such as blood tests, urine tests, and cultures - to diagnose the infection and monitor the patient's response to treatment. This, of course, brings an additional cost burden that would not have been required if that patient’s care had gone to plan.
3. Antibiotic Resistance
The overuse of antibiotics to treat HCAIs can lead to the development of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. These antibiotic-resistant infections are more difficult and expensive to treat, increasing the risk of morbidity and mortality. Furthermore, the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria can have a significant impact on public health, as it can lead to the emergence of superbugs that are resistant to multiple antibiotics. This soon becomes an infection cycle.
4. Follow-up Care
Patients with HCAIs may require additional follow-up care, even after they’re discharged. This could include additional clinic visits, lab tests, and imaging studies.
‘Long COVID’ is a pertinent example of the ongoing effects of infection - A study by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated that around 1.1 million people in the UK reported experiencing Long COVID symptoms in the four weeks leading up to June 6, 2021.
In addition, a study published in The Lancet in February 2021 found that around 76% of patients with COVID-19 reported at least one symptom six months after their initial illness, implying long-term management. Although no data is currently available to break down the expense of Long COVID, we know that its physical and psychological symptoms can require the intervention of painkillers, antidepressants, anti-inflammatory drugs and even Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
5. Litigation and Compensation Claims
In some cases, patients who contract HCAIs may pursue legal action against healthcare institutions and practitioners for medical negligence. Given that patients can suffer significant financial losses as a result of infection – including loss of income from prolonged hospital stays - these litigation and compensation claims can be extremely costly to healthcare providers.
Preventing infection is a life-saving and cost-saving measure.
DDC Dolphin offers a range of innovative products that help prevent the spread of infection and provide safe and hygienic environments for patients and healthcare workers.
These products include…
- Medical pulp macerators. Designed to pulverise and dispose of both single-use medical pulp containers and human waste, DDC Dolphin offer a range of macerators that use advanced technology to reduce the risk of infection and contamination in care environments.
- Bedpan washer disinfectors. Used to sanitise bedpans and other multi-use medical equipment, DDC Dolphin's bedpan washers incorporate the most advanced infection control technology to remove bacteria and viruses, ensuring that the equipment is safe for reuse.
- Vacumatic waste disposal. Vacumatic assists the waste disposal process by sanitising and hermetically sealing dirty waste bags. This eliminates exposure to any potential viruses and bacteria, as well as destroying tell-tale odour at its source.
- Air purification systems. Completely automated and chemical free, the UVMATIC® and UVMATIC® Plus draw in polluted air and cleanse it, using UV light and photocatalytic oxidation.
Disinfectant wipes. Using a blend of two powerful compounds - Didecyldimethylammonium chloride (DDAC) and Triamine – Hygenex Disinfectant Wipes are saturated with a highly effective, broad-spectrum detergent, ideal for use on hard surfaces where there is a high risk of infection.
By investing in the right infection prevention and control strategies, the financial burden of infections on the healthcare system can be reduced – improving patient outcomes and the health of the NHS overall.
“Ultimately, I know that we can rely on DDC Dolphin and would recommend them to all."