John Timmons, Medical Director
As a qualified nurse and Mölnlycke’s Medical Director, I have seen first hand the devastating effects of healthcare associated infections on patients, their families and the NHS.
The latest estimates show that around 300,000 healthcare associated infections occur in the UK each year, costing the NHS £1 billion annually. One of the most prevalent of these are surgical site infections (SSIs). In 2017-18 there were 1,338 reported SSIs in the UK2, causing substantial burdens on the health service, with increased rates of hospitalisation and worse outcomes for patients – all placing further strain on the health service.
One of the key tools against the spread of SSIs in the operating theatre are surgical gloves, a protective barrier to prevent the transmission of pathogens between the patient and surgeon. Whilst high quality surgical gloves help to reduce the risk of exposure to infection, a trend is taking place across health systems whereby surgeons’ requirement for quality and safety is being deprioritised in favour of cost minimisation. As we move into 2020, there are of course many pressures facing the NHS, but we cannot afford to be complacent in the fight against SSIs, nor ensuring that healthcare professionals have the very best tools at hand to reduce their spread.
In order to explore this further Mölnlycke hosted a roundtable in conjunction with the Health Service Journal on how we can improve infection prevention in the operating theatre. We were joined by leaders from across the NHS at the King’s Fund for a wide ranging and informative discussion. You can read and watch highlights of the discussion here.
We covered a huge amount of ground and are immensely grateful to all who attended. On the vital role of capturing and sharing data on SSIs, we received some great insights from Professor John Skinner, Honorary Treasurer of the British Orthopaedic Association and a council member of the Royal College of Surgeons. He shared best practice on how important new data sharing practices through the National Joint Registry have been to his specialty. Orthopaedics is a particularly high risk area3, but it has done so much to demonstrate how we can work to reduce the risk of SSIs. You can watch a video of Professor Skinner outlining these practices in more detail here.
Another key focus of the discussion was ensuring that amid tightening hospital budgets, sustainable and long-term value was prioritised over short term cost cutting exercises when procuring surgical equipment. Panellists shared their concerns over the ‘cheapest is best’ approach being used in some areas, with one attendee cautioning that ‘If you buy cheap, you buy twice and in some cases three times.’ The panel noted that clinicians were not always being consulted on the purchasing decisions for items that directly affected them, including surgical gloves.
Given the role high quality surgical gloves play in helping to reduce the risk of exposure as well as minimising surgical glove failures4, it is vital that the voice of surgeons and theatre staff remain an essential factor in these procurement decisions. Mölnlycke recently conducted a survey of surgeons and their opinions on the role of high-quality surgical gloves in improving safety and outcomes in the operating theatre. The findings were striking; whilst 92% of UK surgeons agreed that high quality surgical gloves reduced the chance of blood-borne viruses, well under half were regularly consulted about their preferred surgical glove by hospital procurement.5
At such a dynamic moment in the NHS’s history and the publication of the Long-Term Plan, Mölnlycke is committed to working collaboratively with the NHS, ensuring we work at all levels of the health system to help minimise all healthcare associated infections. At the roundtable it was fantastic to see the dedication of our partners across the health system in meeting this challenge and I look forward to working further with them and others as we head into the new decade.
 In Use Surgical Gove Failure Rate Comparison. Study G009-005.2009. Data on file.
 Survey conducted by Creative Medical Research. 61 actively practising UK surgeons responded to a survey on understanding surgical gloves. July 2018.