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Healthcare associated infections

Patients and visitors

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A hospital acquired infection is an infection that a patient develops in hospital.

These illnesses are caused by bacteria, such as Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) and c.difficile.

While many people carry these bacteria without feeling ill, they can cause problems for people who are run down or ill, injured or who have had surgery. This is why they are associated with hospitals and other health care environments.

We work hard to combat these infections are consistently reducing the infection rates at our hospitals.


C.difficile – or clostridium difficile – are bacteria widely present in the community and in most cases they are harmless.

However, medical treatment with antibiotics, some types of surgery or where someone’s immune system is weakened, can all leave you vulnerable to c.difficile infection and needing treatment with special types of antibiotics.

We have a consistently low rate of c.difficile infection in our hospitals and our staff work hard to keep c.difficile infections to an absolute minimum.


MRSA – or meticillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus – is a common bacterial infection which around one in three people have on their skin. In most cases it is harmless and you won’t know you have it.

MRSA is a potential problem in hospitals because there is an increased risk that it will get into a wound or the blood, and this may cause an infection. Because it is resistant to many antibiotics, it is difficult to treat. MRSA blood infections – sometimes called MRSA bacteraemias – are rare, but can lead to serious complications.

We have worked very hard to reduce the number of preventable MRSA blood infections, and all cases that do occur are thoroughly investigated so we can improve our care where necessary.


Highly contagious, norovirus is a common cause of outbreaks of diarrhoea and/or vomiting. It affects people of all ages and can be transmitted through water, food, air or person to person contact.

It is sometimes called 'winter vomiting disease' because people usually get it during the winter months. However, it can occur at any time of the year.

More information on norovirus

See advice on dealing with the symptoms of the virus and preventing the infection spreading.

  • Do stay at home – don’t visit A&E, your GP, hospital, friends or family – if you or someone you are caring for isn’t improving within a couple of days you can ring NHS 111 or ring your GPs surgery for advice.
  • Minimise contact with other people. If you intend to visit someone in hospital and have symptoms of diarrhoea and/or vomiting, please do not come to hospital to visit.
  • Try to avoid contact with people who have the virus.
  • Do not go to work with symptoms and for at least 48 hours after your symptoms stop – affected children should stay off school or nursery for the same time.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently and especially after using the toilet or cleaning up vomit or diarrhoea and before eating, drinking or preparing food. Don't rely on alcohol hand rub as it doesn’t kill norovirus.
  • Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces and toilets using a bleach based cleaner or diluted bleach (take care with bleach products, follow the instructions) and wash your hands.
  • Wash contaminated clothes or bedding separately on as high a temperature as the material will tolerate and wash your hands.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. This is particularly important for young children and the elderly, as they are more prone to dehydration. They will need urgent medical treatment if they start to show signs of dehydration such as thirst, dizziness, light headiness, headaches and dry mouth and lips.
  • If you find it hard to keep down fluids, try to take small sips more frequently to keep hydrated.
  • Do not prepare food while infected or, if possible, for 48 hours after your symptoms stop.
  • Try to eat foods that are easy to digest, such as soup, rice, pasta and bread. Babies should continue with their normal feeds.
  • Avoid eating raw, unwashed produce; only eat oysters from a reliable source (oysters can carry norovirus).
  • Do not share towels or flannels at home.

Call NHS 111 or go to the NHS website for further information on the symptoms and prevention of norovirus.

What are we doing about it?

Relative to our size and the complex patient cases we deal with, we now have one of the lowest rates of healthcare associated infections for any central London hospital.

We achieved this through:

  • a high profile hand hygiene campaign
  • a strict dress code for clinical staff
  • mandatory staff training sessions about infection control and prevention
  • carrying out weekly patient safety walkabouts
  • rapid response cleaning and maintenance teams to deal with hazards and spills.