The UK government is ramping up measures to fight MRSA by screening more and more patients before they are admitted to hospital for planned procedures. MRSA is prevalent in the community and is particularly dangerous if allowed to spread within a hospital environment where people with weakened immune systems are even more vulnerable.
Swabs are taken about two weeks before patients are due to be admitted, and if MRSA is found they are offered a five-day course of nasal ointment or other antiseptic treatment.
Although surgery is not normally delayed by such screening and subsequent treatment for MRSA, if the surgery is “highly invasive” the treatment may take longer. Highly invasive surgey includes procedures such as hip replacements.
According to statistics from the NHS, more than 1,400 MRSA tests were carried out last month and Buckinghamshire Hospitals NHS Trust plan to screen a total of 12,000 people this year.
Dr Jean O’Driscoll, trust director of infection prevention and control, said:
Generally speaking the presence of MRSA on a person’s skin is nothing to worry about.
But when invasive procedures like surgery are carried out this increases the risk of harmless MRSA, present on many people’s skin, passing into the bloodstream and giving rise to MRSA bacteraemia infection, which can be serious.
Low-risk patients are exempt from screening for eye, dental, mouth and minor skin procedures. In contrast, some emergency patients are screened within 12 hours of admission if they are high risk, the trust said. The high risk group includes people who have previously had MRSA, are in intensive care or have recently been in hospital or a nursing or residential home.