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What infections on PHIN’s website can tell you about hospitals


For a lot of people who need to have surgery, the risk of getting an infection can be unknown. It is important to feel that you are in safe hands, so we have published information on our website about hospital infection rates, to support you in asking questions about your care. 

Here we explain the different types of infections we publish information about, why they are measured, and how you can use them when considering which hospital is right for you. 

What infections can I see on PHIN’s website? 

There are many infections which are monitored in the NHS and private healthcare. We publish information on two of these infection types: Healthcare Associated Infections and Surgical Site Infections. 

Healthcare-associated infections (HCAI) are a specific list of infections, such as MRSA or E.coli, which hospitals monitor and can be contracted in a number of ways: 
  • as a direct result of hospital treatment, or from being in a hospital; 
  • as a result of healthcare received in the community;
  • or contracted outside of hospital and brought in by patients, staff or visitors and transmitted to others.
These can be hard for hospitals to prevent, especially if patients or visitors come into the hospital already suffering with them. 

However, hospitals should have good processes in place to prevent them from spreading. The HCAI information you can find on PHIN’s website are for privately funded healthcare. 

Surgical Site Infections (SSI) are infections that occur in the part of the body that has been operated on. These can develop as the part of the body operated on is more vulnerable to infection following surgery or because of poor infection control processes.

SSIs are currently monitored following surgery for hip and knee replacement surgery in the NHS and PHIN is publishing this information for privately funded healthcare. 
Why do hospitals record infections?

Hospitals are required to keep records on infections so that they can understand where they are already good at preventing them, and where they can improve. This can help to protect future patients from also catching these infections.

What can infections information tell you about a hospital? 

Hospitals should have good processes to help prevent patients from developing infections. 
However, they cannot prevent patients from coming in with infections already. Patients are also more vulnerable post-surgery and their exposure to infections is increased. 

The first thing you should look for is whether the hospital is monitoring and reporting their infections. If you see ‘Insufficient data provided’ – this means that hospitals are not reporting their infections as they are meant to. 
Hospitals that record and report infections are likely to have a strong focus on patient safety and care. If your hospital does not have infections information on their profile, you should ask why they don’t, and what this might mean for your care. 

If a hospital has a different number of infections compared to another hospital, this could be for several reasons. For example, it might mean that they treat more ‘at risk’ groups like the seriously unwell or older patients, patients could already have a pre-existing infection when they come in for treatment, or it could indicate a need to improve their processes to stop infections spreading. 

A hospital that only performs simple procedures might expect to have fewer infections. Whereas hospitals which treats sicker patients might expect to have more infections but may also have more experience in preventing them from spreading.

The numbers that are on our website can’t tell you the full story of what is going on at each hospital, so this information is best used during discussions with your consultant or hospital. It is important that you ask questions to find out what your risk of infection is and to better understand the level of care you might expect. 

Your checklist:
  1. Check your preferred hospital on PHIN’s website – if they aren’t monitoring and reporting their infections, what could this mean for your care? 
  2. Understand your hospital’s infection rates – use the infection numbers and rates on PHIN’s website as an indication of what the risks might be for your operation.  
  3. Ask questions – use our information and the published numbers to ask your GP or consultant about the hospital’s infection control and hygiene procedures. You need to be confident that they are the right hospital for you.