Healthcare Associated Infection (HAI) information for
Patients may be concerned about how infection risk
affects their treatment and about the measures taken to prevent its
This webpage addresses the most commonly asked
questions about infection risks and includes a list of sources for
further and more detailed information.
What is Healthcare Associated Infection?
Healthcare Associated Infection (HAI) refers to an infection
that a patient may acquire as a result of treatment in a hospital,
a GP’s surgery or even following treatment in a patient’s own home.
Certain patients, such as the elderly, the very young or patients
with diabetes, kidney failure, cancer or those undergoing
particular types of surgery can be more susceptible to certain
infections. Often, the type of bacteria that cause infections, live
on the skin and are usually harmless. Unfortunately, patients
undergoing any treatment may have a lower resistance to these
bacteria, which can gain entry to the body through wounds, drains
or catheters etc and cause an infection.
Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a germ
found both in hospitals and in the community. It can be carried
harmlessly in the nose and other body sites of anyone without
causing problems. The germs can spread easily from one person to
another by the hands or clothes and then passed on to the next
person they touch. MRSA is carried more easily on skin that is
broken; for example where there is a rash, a cut or a sore. It can,
however, cause infections, particularly in people who are already
Special care is taken with MRSA germs when they are found on
patients in hospital, because the germs are resistant to some
commonly used antibiotics. MRSA may then be more difficult to treat
if it does cause an infection.
How is MRSA treated?
People who get MRSA can be treated. If a patient carries MRSA, a
nurse may take swabs to check which parts of the body have MRSA.
Treatment with antiseptic shampoo, powder or cream will be given. A
patient who has an MRSA infection is usually treated with
The gut of healthy people contains bacteria that usually cause
no harm. Clostridium Difficile (C Diff) is one of the bacteria that
may be present in small numbers. C Diff rarely causes problems in
children or healthy adults, as it is kept in check by the normal
bacterial population of the intestine. When certain antibiotics
disturb the balance of normal bacteria, Clostridium Difficile can
multiply rapidly and cause illness.
An increase of Clostridium Difficile irritates the gut lining.
Diarrhoea is the most common symptom. However, abdominal pain,
fever, loss of appetite and sickness may also be present.
How does C Diff spread?
It is possible for the infection to spread from person to person
because those suffering from C Diff shed spores in their
Spores can survive for a very long time and can be transported
on the hands of infected patients or people who have had direct
contact with them. The spores can also contaminate the general
environment including surfaces and equipment and if picked up on
hands, and then from hand to mouth, can be transferred into the
How is C Diff treated?
Clostridium Difficile is usually treated with specific
antibiotics. Once the diarrhoea stops, this usually indicates that
the infection is gone. There is a risk of recurrence; if this
happens, other treatments may be carried out.
Prevention and control
All of our Hospitals have strict nursing and cleaning procedures
which reduce the risk of infection to very low levels. Another
significant factor in reducing risk is that we can offer single
rooms with en suite facilities to almost all of our patients. If a
patient is found to be a carrier, or have an infection, careful
precautions are put in place to prevent it’s spread. In certain
circumstances an operation or treatment may have to be deferred
until treatment has been given.
Screening for the presence of MRSA is another precautionary step
which can prove vital as many patients entering hospitals have been
shown to be carrying MRSA. If they are identified in advance, they
can be treated in isolation.
The Department of Health has published ‘A simple guide to MRSA’
and ‘A simple guide to Clostridium Difficile’ available at
You can find more in depth information about Hospital Associated
Infection (HAI) by visiting the Health Protection Agency website at
If you have any questions about infection control and our
infection control policies, please contact the hospital where staff
will arrange for a member of the Infection Control Team to get in
touch with you.