Page last updated at 10:31 GMT, Wednesday, 9 September 2009 11:31 UK

Hospital patient safety improving

surgeons washing hands
Pre-operative checklists are being implemented to cut infection rates

Simple changes to the way patients are cared for in hospital are having a significant impact on infection rates, according to the Scottish Government.

Hospitals are being urged to adopt stricter treatment regimes to cut hospital deaths by 15% and "adverse incidents" by 30% over five years.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon is highlighting the measures as part of Patient Safety Month.

She visited Stirling Royal Infirmary where infection rates are down.

Prior to adopting a stricter treatment regime, the hospital recorded at least one incident per month where a patient who required a "central line" tube for food or medication, suffered from bacterial infection.

However, NHS Forth Valley said new procedures had resulted in no cases of infection being recorded since January last year.

The Scottish Patient Safety Programme is designed to give front-line staff permission to make changes to the way they work.

The changes, which have been trialled in individual health boards, range from daily staff briefings to introducing pre-operative surgical checklists to reduce complications in the operating theatre.

'Improve care'

The strategy has reduced ventilator-acquired pneumonia and the length of time patients stay in intensive care, according to the government.

Nicola Sturgeon said the programme was not about employing more staff or buying more equipment but about the "reliable application of best practice".

Speaking ahead of her visit to Stirling, she said: "Central line infections are one of the most common causes of infection in intensive care so this strategy really is safeguarding patients' health and ultimately saving lives."

She added: "It's about the reliable application of best practice. And it is about making the best use of the commitment of NHS staff to improve care for every patient."

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Ross Finnie said that while it was "encouraging" infection rates had fallen, major changes were still needed to avoid fatal outbreaks.

He added: "That's why it's so important that the public inquiry into the fatal C. diff outbreak at the Vale of Leven hospital also considers similar incidents across the country."

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