Read our latest advice on Coronavirus (COVID-19)


Our hospitals and community services are open - we are here to help

Infection prevention and control

Patients and visitors

More in this section

With regular audits and strict hygiene standards we work hard and place great importance in reducing the risk of infection for you and your visitors, and our staff.

Infection prevention is key to your safety

If you're ill, injured or have an opening, such as a wound or tube placed in the body, you're more at risk of developing an infection.

Infections can increase the time it takes you to recover and lead to a longer stay in hospital or worse.

How you can help

  • please follow our hand hygiene guidance
  • if you notice that a ward area, toilet or bathroom is dirty, please tell a member of staff straight away and they will arrange for it to be cleaned.

If you are a patient: 

  • try not to touch your wound, drip or catheter and don't take off your dressing
  • ask friends and relatives not to visit you if they are unwell.

Why can't all infections be avoided?

However hard we work, not all infections can be avoided – you may:

  • already have an infection when you come into hospital
  • be having surgery or treatment that increases the risk of infection
  • have a low immune system (the body's defence system), making you more vulnerable to infections.

Patient information videos

To help our patients with their preparation for surgery and to equip them with information on how to manage their wounds to prevent wound infections after surgery, the Infection Prevention and Control Department have new animated patient guidance videos.

All our patients are advised to start watching the videos at and after pre-assessment clinics up until the wound is completely healed.

Reducing the risk of wound infection

  • Reducing the risk of wound infection – video transcript

    Reducing the risk of wound infection. This section explains what you can do to help reduce the risk of infection and prepare for surgery.

    In the month before surgery, let your GP know if you think you have any infection that may need treating and clearing out before coming into hospital.

    This includes urinary tract infections or chest infections. It also includes conditions like cellulitis or other issues which may be near to, or over the expected surgical site, such for example a fungal infection between the skin folds on the stomach.

    If not treated the pathogens involved in these infections may spread and cause a problem after surgery with your wound.

    In the week before coming into hospital don't shave the hair from your chest, arms, legs, groin, or any area of your body which may be involved in surgery. This is because studies show that shaving may increase the risk of infection in certain types of operations. If needed, the nurse will help you remove hair for surgery using electric clippers while you are in hospital.

    It's recommended that you shower methodically the day before and as well as on the day of surgery, this will help reduce a number of bacteria on your skin. Have a shower and wash your hair using liquid soap and shampoo, clean flannels and clean towels. You may be given a special antimicrobial liquid soap to use before your surgery. Use this according to the product’s instructions or as advised by hospital staff. In hospital, your nurse can assist you if you need help showering. After surgery it is very important to have a full daily wash even if you feel tired.

    After your surgery, and most importantly for staff and patients, keeping hands clean is an effective way of preventing the spread of infection. During your recovery period, we recommend that you aim to wash your hands at least 10 times a day, which is in line with other healthcare advice to stop infections.

    Please don't touch your wound or any cannula or tubes placed by doctors as this could increase the risk of infection.

    Once you go home, we recommend that you continue to wash your hands as you would do normally, plus double again for the first few weeks after surgery.

    Continue to avoid touching a wound until the skin is sealed over with a flat scar and keep movement gentle, so as not to stretch or stress the area.

    You'll have a follow-up appointment to check on the wound and healing progress, either in hospital or with a community carer.

    This preparation is a general guide, your hospital staff will give you all the help and specific advice you'll need for your surgery and recovery period.

 

Surgical wound healing

  • Surgical wound healing – video transcript

    Surgical wound healing.

    After surgery your skin and tissue will take time to heal. This will happen in three overlapping stages that we call respond, repair and refine.

    During the response stage, the body helps to re-balance itself after the surgery as platelets help form a blood clot, stopping any bleeding and protecting the surgical site or wound from germs and infections.

    With the help of stitches, also known as sutures, or other materials such as glue or staples, your skin is being pulled back together after the surgery and because of this your wound is closed.

    Healing is taking place underneath the wound and also on the outside of the skin.

    In the first few days after your surgery, you may notice redness and heat around the wound. This means the blood vessels are getting bigger to make room for red blood cells and fluids, which bring oxygen, warmth and protective cells to help your body heal itself.

    White blood cells help clean up the area by removing any fluid, dead tissue and bacteria that isn't needed in the healing process.

    Sometimes a drain, which is a thin plastic tube placed near the wound, is used for a couple of days to help remove fluid from the wound and keep it clean.

    The area where the cut was made may also be swollen and painful because of this increased activity and blood flow.

    The heat, redness, pain and swelling are known as inflammation. Inflammation is normal and usually goes away a few days after surgery.

    In the repair stage, the body gets to work on the outside of the wound covering it with new cells within 24 hours of the surgery.

    Your wound would be covered with a dressing or bandage to protect these new cells and give them time to grow and form new skin and tissue.

    Healing will still be taking place underneath the wound for roughly three to seven days.

    The refine stage happens in the year following your surgery and this time the structure and strength of the wound improves, and will continue to improve, for months after the wound is closed.

    From day one, up to around day 14, the skin and scar tissue gain 30 to 50% of its original strength. When fully healed it will be around 80% of its original strength.

    Surgical wounds generally heal quickly when they are well cared for and protected from infection.

    Materials to close the wound.

    Without addressing covering the wound, you may notice some material along the wound margins which are used to support the incision while it heals.

    Your surgeon uses stitches to close the deeper layers of your wound, these do not need to be removed and will dissolve over time.

    Depending on which product will help your skin heal best, your surgeon also selects either sutures, staples, glue or tapes to cover the top of the wound.

    Sutures and stitches are either dissolvable or non-dissolvable.

    Wounds closed with dissolvable sutures do not need anything removed from the incision line. These may be one or two clear plastic like sutures visible usually at the very end or mid incision but these do not need to be trimmed or removed. Please leave them to dissolve naturally over time.

    If your skin is closed with non-dissolvable sutures, the dark threats are usually removed by a healthcare professional, usually around 10 to 14 days after surgery.

    Surgical clips, which look like staples, sit on top of your skin and are not difficult to remove. These thin, small metal bars are removed by a healthcare professional approximately two weeks after surgery.

    If glue or adhesive is used to close your skin, the film will fall naturally from your skin after five to 10 days. Please do not pick or rub the film off and do not let your wound soak in water.

    After 10 days, it is a good idea to start rinsing the area gently to help remove the glue residue. Sometimes steri-strips, which are white or brown tapes, are used to bring the skin around the wound together. Avoid getting the tapes wet as this reduces their ability to stick and hold the skin together. When the tape starts to curl or peel away after five to seven days, you may wet and gently remove them.

    Have a daily wash with liquid soap, but to help your wound heal, do not rub or actively wash the area for the first weeks, just rinse gently with warm water and pat dry first before the rest of your body.

    Avoid any creams, talcs or ointments on the wound for the first months and don't worry if the different products seem confusing. Your doctors and nurses will help and advise you during your hospital stay as well as on any follow-up care.

 

What causes wound infection?

  • What causes wound infection? – video transcript

    What causes wound infection?

    The cause of surgical wound infections are generally bacterial rather than other bugs such as viruses.

    The skin is the first barrier of defence against infection.

    If, during or after surgery, harmful bacteria get into the wound, or if normal bacteria get mixed up with unhealthy or damaged tissue, the wound can become infected.

    Sometimes there may be some gaping of the wound incision and this increases the risk of infection.

    Your body will respond to bacteria in a similar way as it helps itself to heal with inflammation.

    Red and white blood cells will be brought to the area to fight off infection, so if you notice new or spreading heat, redness, pain or swelling around the area where the surgeon cut your skin, the wound may be showing signs of infection.

    These signs would usually occur after a number of days or even weeks after your surgery.

    Other signs of infection include pus, which is a thick green yellow or brown liquid coming from the wound.

    It is very important to watch out for these signs and symptoms, as well as for high temperature or fever, in the months after your operation.

    Please contact your GP or hospital immediately if you think your wound might be infected.

    Treating an infection early stops it from becoming worse or lasting longer than it should.

    If your doctor suspects you have an infection, take the antibiotics as advised.

    If you don't take antibiotics at the right time, or complete the course of antibiotics, there is a risk that the bacteria will become stronger and harder to treat.

 

Washing hands using handwash

Our staff use a six step hand washing technique, and we encourage patients and visitors to do the same. Find out more about hand hygiene.