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National Patient Safety Agency

NPSA welcomes fall in C diff incidents

23 October 2008


Responding to the figures released today by the Health Protection Agency, which revealed a decline in reported cases of Clostridium difficile in NHS hospitals in England, Martin Fletcher, Chief Executive of the National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) said:


“The fall in C.diff cases in NHS hospitals is very positive as it confirms that frontline hospital staff are continuing to take infection control very seriously.


“Through our support for the PEAT (Patient Environment Action Team) programme we facilitate the assessment of all NHS hospitals in England each year for their standards of cleanliness and hygiene (of which 98.5% of NHS trusts in England scored “acceptable” or above).  Our cleanyourhands campaign encourages frontline healthcare staff to take an active role in preventing infections such as MRSA and C.diff from spreading from patient to patient.


“The cleanyourhands campaign does this by reminding nurses, doctors or any other staff who have direct contact with patients, to clean their hands before and after treatment as this is when infections are most likely to spread. While alcohol-based hand gels are convenient and effective against MRSA, for diarrhoea-related illnesses such as Clostridium difficile, we advise staff to use soap and water instead.


“I would like to congratulate all of those involved for their continued commitment to the highest standards of infection control".


View the latest C diff figures released from the Health Protection Agency.




 Notes for editors:


Media enquiries to Paul Cooney in the NPSA Press Office on 020 7927 9351 or paul.cooney@npsa.nhs.uk.


The NPSA oversees the management of the PEAT (Patient Environment Action Team) programme, which assesses NHS hospitals in England every year. The teams inspect standards across a range of patient services including of food, cleanliness, infection control, and patient environment (bathroom areas, décor, lighting, floors and patient access) to give the hospital an overall rating.  This year’s (2008) results show a significant improvement in standards with 98.5% of trusts scoring acceptable or above for their patient environments and 99.5% of trusts scoring acceptable or above for standards of hospital food.


In September 2008, the NPSA updated its patient safety alert on hand hygiene, “Clean Hands Save Lives” for all infection control teams to implement and disseminate to frontline healthcare staff. The alert is in line with the current internationally-recognised best practice guidelines and is the first in the “Worth Repeating” series which the NPSA has introduced to raise awareness of important patient safety incidents.


The NPSA marked this year’s Infection Control Week (20th – 24th October 2008) by producing limited edition cards (in collaboration with NHS Scotland, Northern Ireland’s Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, and the Infection Prevention Society) explaining the correct procedures that staff should follow when cleaning their hands. The guidance is based on the WHO’s “Five Moments for Hand Hygiene”, which advise that healthcare staff should clean their hands:

  1. Before contact with the patient
  2. Before performing an aseptic task
  3. After the healthcare worker has been exposed to body fluid
  4. After contact with the patient
  5. After contact with the patient’s surroundings.



From 1 November 2003 of 15 July 2008, the NPSA’s Reporting and Learning System (NRLS) received 379 reports of patient safety incidents involving alcohol handrub in NHS trusts in England and Wales. Of these the majority were reported as low or no harm. The RLS is designed for confidential reporting of patient safety errors and systems failures by health professionals across England and Wales. The confidential data is analysed by the NPSA to identify national patient safety trends and priorities, and to develop practical solutions. The aim is to help the NHS to learn from things that go wrong.


In July 2008 the cleanyourhands campaign released a guidance DVD to all NHS trusts in England and Wales, demonstrating the correct procedures for hand hygiene.


The NPSA-run cleanyourhands campaign aims to improve the hand hygiene of healthcare workers and helps the NHS tackle healthcare associated infections. Since its launch in 2004, the campaign has been adopted by all NHS acute trusts in England and Wales. In July the campaign was extended to primary care, mental health, ambulance and care trusts.


The National Patient Safety Agency encompasses the National Research Ethics Service, National Reporting and Learning Service and the National Clinical Assessment Service. Our vision is to lead and contribute to improved, safe patient care by informing, supporting and influencing healthcare individuals and organisations. Each division works within its sphere of expertise to improve patient outcomes.