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Sheffield Teaching Hospitals takes all healthcare-associated infections including MRSA extremely seriously. Here are some basic facts about MRSA, what it is, what it isn't and how you can help us to combat MRSA in hospitals

What is MRSA?

The full name of MRSA is Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Staphylococcus aureus is a very common type of bacteria. In fact, it lives on the skin and in the nose of around a third of us without causing infection or doing any harm at all. People who have it on their skin or in their noses but who are unharmed by it are described as being 'colonised'.  Methicillin is a type of antibiotic that some Staphylococcus aureus have become resistant to over time. The bacteria have naturally developed this resistance. If the bacteria are resistant it makes any infection they cause more difficult to treat. This is why MRSA can be a problem and why we take steps to prevent patients getting it.

What causes MRSA?

Like many bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus usually becomes a problem only if you are run down, ill, injured or have had surgery. It can cause serious infections if it enters the body through wounds or tubes after surgery or serious illness.

For this reason, MRSA tends to be more common in hospitals. People are ill and more susceptible to infection. This is particularly true of people with wounds as a result of surgery or those who are using catheters (plastic tubes placed in the body to drain fluids) or intravenous drips. People who are naturally colonised with the bacteria have a greater risk of it causing an infection when they are ill.

Another problem is that the bacteria can also be spread from person to person quite easily. This is why it is important that we encourage thorough and regular handwashing amongst our staff and work to keep the hospitals clean.

In our hospitals we give specialist life saving treatments to very sick patients from all over the country. Many patients are tested before they come in for treatment so we can find out if they are colonised. If they are we can take steps to prevent any possible spread of MRSA.

Can MRSA be treated?

Yes, MRSA can usually be treated. There are antibiotics other than the group that Methicillin belongs to, which can be given if a person is unwell with an MRSA infection. Other medications, such as antiseptic wash and ointments can also be used to remove MRSA from the nose and skin even when it is doing a patient no harm.

What are the Sheffield Hospitals doing to stop MRSA?

MRSA is a global problem and is a major challenge. However, it can be controlled and we are committed to doing everything we can to prevent the spread of it in our hospitals. We have relatively low records of MRSA infection in our hospitals, amongst the lowest for the type of major teaching hospital that we are and our last set of published figures showed no rise in numbers of infections. However, we need to be constantly fighting against it.

We take a number of steps to do this, we:

  • Employ infection control teams in each hospital. The teams educate staff and check the levels of infection within the hospitals.
  • Teach all health care workers good infection control practice from the time they start working in the hospitals.
  • Provide good hand hygiene facilities for staff and visitors. These include hand rubs that can kill germs (usually they are a kind of gel). We are introducing these throughout all clinical areas - to be by every bedside or carried by staff where appropriate. You'll see the new bright green style hand rubs around the hospital if you visit us.
  • Instruct all hospital staff to clean their hands when they need to and wear aprons and gloves if necessary when they care for patients.
  • Screen some patients when they come into hospital for MRSA so we can identify if they are colonised with the bacteria. This is done by taking a simple swab of the nose or the groin area. By identifying patients colonised with MRSA from the community we can then take steps to prevent the risk of it coming into the hospitals.

Our domestic services teams also play a vital part in the control, prevention and spread of infection, through making sure the wards and departments are kept clean. As you can see, combating MRSA is a team effort that involves staff from all the hospitals. Patients and visitors, can also play a role.

Our MRSA Screening Policy

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has a comprehensive policy which details all aspects of MRSA screening, decolonisation, treatment and management and this is updated to reflect changes to national screening policies. Please click here for more information on our MRSA Screening Policy.

How can I help prevent the spread of MRSA?

MRSA can be passed on by human contact so we need the help of patients and visitors as well as our staff to help combat it. Washing hands is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of all infections and we encourage our patients and visitors to do this as well as our staff.

  • If you are a patient please wash your hands before meals and after using the toilet and ensure your hands are clean before and after handling catheters, drips, dressings etc. Please do not sit on another patient's bed.
  • If you are a visitor, the hospitals also encourage you to wash your hands before and after visiting your friend or relative. You can use traditional soap and water or the hand rubs provided. These are alcohol based and kill germs very effectively. Again, please use the chairs provided rather than sit on your relative or friend's bed.
  • You should also report any unclean areas within the hospital wards to a member of staff so we can take action. 

Whether you are a patient or a visitor please don't be afraid to ask the doctor or nurse if they have washed their hands before they treat you or your relative or friend.

The truth about MRSA

Whilst we feel it is important that you know about MRSA and what we can do to stop it spreading, we don’t want people to be alarmed or to let it put you off coming to hospital. It is worth remembering that:

  • MRSA only affects a minority of people and not all people with MRSA will get an actual infection.
  • People do not usually have MRSA 'for life'. It can be treated successfully in many cases. It is only resistant to certain antibiotics.
  • People do not only catch it in hospitals, it can be caught whilst out in the community.
  • Importantly, MRSA does not pose a risk to healthy people (those without wounds or chronic illness).

Additional Information

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