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Trafford General Hospital fights infection by abandoning plastic washbowls

Vernacare : 22 November, 2007  (New Product)
Sister Jay Turner-Gardner, Infection Control Specialist Nurse for Trafford General Hospital, presented a case study at the Infection Prevention Society annual conference on how the hospital has abandoned its use of plastic washbowls in favour of a single-use, medical pulp based system.
'Do you know what’s lurking in your plastic washbowls?' asked Turner-Gardner of the delegates at a seminar during the IPS autumn conference.

She explained whyTrafford General has abandoned its use of plastic washbowls and moved to a single-use, medical pulp based system that increases standards of infection prevention.

Turner-Gardner opened the session by presenting a graphic image of ‘bug soup’ – demonstrating some of the potential microbes which can colonise plastic bowls when they are not decontaminated after use or disinfected thermally/chemically between infected patients as is recommended.

Citing research from Aston University, she demonstrated how swabs taken from ‘clean’ plastic washbowls from two different hospitals were found to be isolating Staphylococci, Pseudomonas, Aspergillum and Mucor fungi.

IPS delegates were asked if they were following the NHS Healthcare Cleaning Manual guidelines, which state that wash bowls should be heat/ thermally disinfected following the discharge of infected patients.

“The only way you can guarantee the safety of your patients when using re-usable plastic washbowls is through thermal or chemical disinfection”, said Turner-Gardner, “but on busy wards, how often does this happen? Is it just those patients known to have an infection whose bowls are properly decontaminated? If thorough cleaning isn’t taking place, or plastic items are not being used on a single-use basis, patient health could be at risk”.

Sister Turner-Gardner explained how Trafford General had taken part in a month-long trial for the new single use Vernacare washbowl, which is the first medical pulp product which can hold both soap and warm water and remain maceratable after use.

“We used the single-use washbowls on 15 wards, and evaluation forms were supplied to both staff and patients”, she explained. “The feedback was extremely positive with 98.5 percent of nurses agreeing that they thought this system would reduce the likelihood of infection, and 93.2 percent commenting that it did save nursing time. Patients liked them too, reassured by the fact that they were given a clean bowl each time”.

She added ”Every ward at Trafford General now uses the detergent proof disposable bowl, which also helps boost the hospital’s environmental performance as it is made from 100 percent recycled newspaper and disintegrates after use using cold water maceration.

'Nurses everywhere have been seeking a solution to the infection risk posed by plastic wash bowls that are re-used without being cleaned and dried thoroughly, especially in places like intensive care where they may not be thermally or chemically disinfected with a chlorine releasing agent before being issued to the next patient. At last we have a viable alternative. This is a positive step forward in infection prevention as the technology which allows this new washbowl to work is not used in standard pulp products which cannot hold warm soapy water.'

Sister Turner-Gardner reported that Trafford General is continuing to advance its Infection control procedures promoting the use of single use washbowls for environmental/terminal cleaning and also leg ulcer clinics.

She added: “We continue to challenge practice and innovate in order promote prevention of Infection by breaking the chain of infection. As the famous saying goes 'even complex tasks can be accomplished by taking one small step at a time'.”

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