Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus – better known as MRSA – has, unfortunately, become synonymous with hospital stays over the past decade, with periodic outbreaks continuing to hit the headlines.

This is despite the number of reported cases declining significantly overall, as data from Public Health England reveals:

However, while the downward trend should be celebrated, there can be no room for complacency; superbugs are deadly, and all hospital staff have a duty to stop them in their tracks.

Innovations such as infection-proof pillows with welded, rather than stitched, seams should be warmly welcomed, as they remove the risk of bedding contamination, greatly reducing the chances of a viral epidemic.

If your budget doesn’t stretch to new bedding, you should at the least ensure all staff are aware of NHS guidance on handwashing. Humming along to ‘Happy Birthday’ can’t fail to put a smile on one’s face, so everybody should be encouraged to take 20 seconds out to do so while giving their hands a thorough scrub.

Furthermore, it’s of critical importance that alcohol gel dispensers are placed at strategic points throughout your premises, with staff trained to regularly cleanse, further eliminating the risk of infection spreading.

Additionally, you should take the following steps to prevent the spread of MRSA:

Clean your body thoroughly, particularly after exercise.
Ensure cuts, scrapes and wounds are cleaned and covered until healed.
Discourage the sharing of personal items, such as razors and towels.
Ensure bedding and clothing are changed and washed daily.
Look out for bumps on the skin that appear to be red, swollen, warm, painful, and full of pus, especially if they’re accompanied by a fever. Alert an appropriate member of staff if you notice these symptoms on yourself or a patient.

You can view photos of MRSA infections by visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website here.

A clean bill of health

Stainless steel is prized for being hygienic and corrosion resistant, making it ideal for use in hospital fixtures and equipment. While there is a growing trend for antimicrobial copper alloy fittings in hospitals, the accepted position among healthcare professionals is that steel is quicker to sterilise and cheaper to install. The material is non-porous (so viruses can’t soak in), rust-resistant and robust. Thus, there’s a good chance your washrooms contain several stainless steel amenities, such as wash troughs, sink bowls and urinals.

It should be understood that thorough cleaning of toilet facilities should be a prerequisite of any healthcare institution, but the cleaning of stainless steel requires attention.

The word “stainless” is a slight misnomer, as stains can still appear if proper cleaning procedures are not followed. A stiff bristle brush and warm soapy water will work wonders on most marks, but if that doesn’t do the trick, washing up liquid dabbed onto a nylon pad should save the day.

Wash troughs can easily be overlooked by cleaning staff – the water’s running all day long, so there’s a natural assumption they’re clean. However, the ends, underside, and tap ledges can be a breeding ground for germs, so it’s crucial that these are sufficiently tackled as part of a regular cleaning schedule – especially in a medical setting. The same goes for urinals.

An Oxford University report recently indicated hospitals that outsource cleaning are linked to higher rates of MRSA, so if your facility falls into this category, you should take particular notice and make sure your contractor has strict cleaning policies in place. Don’t assume they know what they’re doing, ask tough questions and be sure their staff are adequately trained.

Superbug-prevention is a long-term game of marginal gains, and every single one of your processes should be analysed and refined until you eliminate the risk.

Paul Thorn is the founder of Washware Essentials, a leading supplier of stainless steel sanitary ware to health care practices throughout the UK.