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  • Writer's pictureLilian Chiwera

It’s time to step up our Surgical Site Infection (SSI) prevention campaigns

Updated: May 4, 2021

I acknowledge things have been and continue to be extremely challenging for us all. The current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic (UK updates and Global picture) suggests it’s too early to predict the future particularly in light of the emergence of variants of concern and an emerging worrying situation in India.The impact of surgery cancellation is only beginning to emerge (see). Some patients are opting for private operations with some travelling abroad to have their surgery completed. It is estimated that at least 4.7 million people in England are waiting for their operations. As the NHS is cautiously emerging from the effects of the pandemic (it’s not over yet, experts warn!); patients are being prioritised according to clinical need. This is inevitably causing increased anxiety in those awaiting surgery who must continue to be supported.Some useful tips on how to help those in self-isolation which were shared widely at the start of the pandemic still apply even as restrictions are being relaxed in most areas. Kindness and love for each other must continue to be all our priority as we come to terms with widespread devastating consequences of this pandemic. Yes, we must stay in touch, help each other out and offer to help those in need during challenging times. In the end, it’s our love for each other that will win during and beyond this pandemic.

Healthcare organisations may well want to perform as many safe operations as they can to reduce waiting lists but it is widely acknowledged that health care staff are incredibly exhausted physically and psychologically. They therefore need tender loving care at this stage. Speaking to colleagues, there are many who are considering career changes so increasing amounts of support for all staff will go a long way. This obviously puts organisational leadership in the spotlight. Gone are the days when leaders managed from their luxurious offices; they must visit clinical and non-clinical areas to encourage and inspire and encourage staff as well as picking up any concerning cues. I have written before about the importance of an increased focus on #humanfactors and/or #ergonomics. I’m delighted tosee a lot of posts on Twitter with evidence of senior leadership doing their all to show that support.

There hasn’t been much SSI monitoring for most surgical specialties. As healthcare settings now cautiously return to ‘normal operating schedules’, we cannot afford to have any surgical patients developing avoidable SSIs. Patients and staff alike have been through a lot already and all require support to promote safety. Any avoidable infection for a patient whether paying for their care or receiving free care is unacceptable and we must all do the best we can to support safe systems. Programmes like the Get It Right First Time resonate well with me. Driven by my experience of working for pharmaceutical companies, I endeavour to get it right the first time to minimise associated costs and distress or inconveniences for our patients. I acknowledge human factors play a big part but I’d rather fail trying to reach for the moon.

I wrote about possible psychological consequences of this pandemic to staff and patients in a previous blog. Addressing different psychological dimensions of COVID-19 and the impact of secondary stressorscontinue to take precedence. Things may never return to normal, so I feel we have to learn to adjust and develop cohesive & supportive working relationships that promote safety and quality.

I’m excited about the work being led by Melissa Rochon and colleagues on the Photo At Discharge (PAD) initiative. This work aims to evaluate the use of digital images in surgical site infection surveillance & prevention. Other SSI prevention experts and other organisations and networks are also focusing more on SSI surveillance and prevention. It’s time to step up our SSI prevention campaigns, involve various stakeholders – political and healthcare leaders and hopefully get more funding to promote an important surgical #patientsafety initiative. As I always say... we can all make a difference together #InThisTogether!

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