The journal BMJ Quality and Safety has published a study which suggests that an NHS trust has been particularly successful in dealing with the novovirus bug.
Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust has reportedly cut outbreaks of the winter bug that causes violent vomiting by more than 90 per cent over a five-year period.
The trust actually used a relatively simple system in order to achieve this eye-catching result.
Simple clinical measures combined with computer-based surveillance were utilised in order to identify and expediently manage patients who had been infected with the virus.
By treating people more rapidly, incidences of the virus were massively reduced.
In addition to the novovirus, the Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust also claims to have significantly reduced cases of other gastrointestinal viruses.
The initiative meant that norovirus outbreaks at the trust dropped by 91 per cent between 2009-10 and 2010-14.
And this reduction in the virus was much pronounced than those reported by other hospitals across England.
This can be considered particularly significant as these debilitating bugs create particularly unpleasant symptoms in patients, and can be extremely disruptive to the overall functioning and capacity of hospitals and other healthcare institutions.
The paper in BMJ Quality and Safety concluded: “A multi-year quality improvement programme, including use of real-time electronic identification of patients with norovirus-like symptoms, and an early robust response to suspected infection, resulted in virtual elimination of outbreaks.”
Central to the success of the Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust was its collaboration with The Learning Clinic.
This helped produce computer software referred to as ‘VitalPAC Infection Prevention Manager’.
The VitalPAC Infection Prevention Manager is able to utilise the Apple iPod MP3 player to record important patient observations related to the novovirus, and create a sophisticated yet simple series of alerts that enable healthcare staff to respond quickly.
Commenting on the success of the approach adopted by this southernmost NHS trust, Dr Caroline Mitchell, associate director for infection and patient safety at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, and one of the study’s authors, commented that other trusts could achieve similar results by adopting the Portsmouth methodology.
“By application of simple measures we have significantly reduced the number of cases of Norovirus and other gastrointestinal viruses which can cause serious and unpleasant symptoms in patients and massively disrupt the operational capacity of the hospital. The combination of new technology and better training and organisation of our staff has contributed hugely to our successful results in this field.”
Dr Peter Greengross, medical director of The Learning Clinic, which developed the VitalPAC system, added: “We believe Norovirus outbreaks cost the NHS £41.5m a year. If every hospital achieved the same result as Portsmouth the savings could be £38m a year. That would have a massive impact.”
Research published by Public Health England claims that novovirus outbreaks affect as many as 30,000 patients worldwide, and that the virus is ultimately responsible for the equivalent of 8,900 days of ward closure and 15,500 bed-days.
Potential savings from a nationwide implementation of the strategy adopted by the Portsmouth NHS trust could result in savings equal to £38 million per year.
While this may be a relatively paltry figure converted to the massive deficits that some NHS trusts are experiencing, it would nonetheless make a small contribution toward balancing the books, while delivering superior treatment to patients.