Doctors to trial hygiene checklist prior to surgery

Safety experts have launched a new drive to improve hygiene in the NHS based on a simple checklist that has saved thousands of lives.

The scheme, called "Matching Michigan", is modelled on one pioneered in the US state where it is estimated to have saved 1,500 lives in the first 18 months. Launched in the UK on 1 May, it is being piloted in eight NHS trusts in the north east and, if successful, will be rolled out across the country.

Under the plan medical staff will be asked to run through a series of checks each time they insert a catheter into the main artery in the chest, in the same way pilots check their aircraft before take-off.

There are an estimated 200,000 "central lines" inserted each year into the aorta, the main artery leading from the heart, which carry drugs such as those used in chemotherapy for cancer that are too toxic to be administered via a vein in the arm. In around 12,400 cases (6.2 per cent) the line becomes infected, often because of poor hygiene, resulting in sepsis which can lead to severe illness and death.

The checklist contains basic reminders about hygiene – wash hands with soap, clean the patient's skin with antiseptic, cover it with sterile drapes – which every doctor and nurse knows but does not reliably carry out on each occasion. The list helps to remind staff that a single slip can cost a life. In the US, newly appointed health secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, announced this month that the checklist would be rolled out across the country with a national target to reduce central line infections by 75 per cent in three years.

Peter Pronovost, professor of critical care medicine and director of safety research at John Hopkins University, who pioneered the checklist, said: "We struggled for a couple of years [to get the idea accepted] but now it has just exploded."

Professor Pronovost is advising the UK NHS and a dozen other countries including Spain and Peru on the implementation of the scheme. He said he had been shocked to discover that hospitals in the UK did not measure their infection rates in a way that made them comparable. "I don't give a hoot how they measure them but they must do it. [Medical staff] are grossly over-confident about how good they are," he said.

High death rates from hospital infections had been tolerated for too long because the deaths were seen as inevitable, he said. "It is going to take consumer activism to tackle this. We need governments and clinicians and managers and patients behind it – without all of them in the sandbox it is not going to work."

Peter Hibbert, associate director at the National Patient Safety Agency which is running the pilot scheme in the UK, said: "We are very excited about the opportunity to reduce patient harm in this particular problem. There are lessons you can learn that can be applied to other safety issues. The health service does most things well for most patients but the checklist enables you to do it well for all patients."

The news comes months after The Independent revealed that a similar checklist for surgery is being rolled out across the NHS after a pilot in eight hospitals around the world, including St Mary's in London, showed it cut the death rate by half (from 1.5 per cent to 0.8 per cent) and the complication rate by a third (from 11 per cent to 7 per cent).

The results, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in January, showed that among the 234 million operations performed worldwide – eight million of them in Britain – there was the potential to save hundreds of thousands of lives.

The surgical checklist is backed by the World Health Organisation and includes basic questions such as Is this the right patient? Is this the right limb? Has the patient had the right drugs?

Despite their obviousness, they were not being asked and disasters were occurring as a result.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist / Physio / Osteopath

    £12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...

    Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

    £35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

    Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

    Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

    £20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
    UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

    39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

    There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
    Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

    Computerised cooking is coming

    From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
    Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

    Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

    The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
    Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

    Education: Football Beyond Borders

    Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
    10 best barbecue books

    Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

    We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
    Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most