Lincolnshire clinic installs antimicrobial copper surfaces in patient safety initiative

Replaces key high-touch surfaces with antimicrobial copper equivalents

Antimicrobial copper surfaces make sense from a patient safety point of view

A new patient safety initiative at Lincolnshire’s Pilgrim Hospital in the UK is harnessing the antimicrobial efficacy of copper to help address the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in hospitals.

Michael Oko, ENT Consultant and Clinical Lead, and Department of Health Advisor on Obstructive Sleep Apnoea, has championed the replacement of key high-touch surfaces with antimicrobial copper equivalents, beginning with bed rails, cabinet handles, chair arms, grab rails, hand rails, light switches, taps and coat hooks. With these now installed, his intention is to replace more items and roll out the copper upgrade throughout the hospital.

Copper is inherently antimicrobial, and shares this benefit with many copper alloys including brass and bronze. Collectively termed 'antimicrobial copper', this family of metals is used to make touch surfaces that will not harbour pathogens that cause infections, actively killing them 24/7 and in-between regular cleans. Antimicrobial copper has proved effective against a broad range of pathogens, including those with antibiotic resistance such as MRSA and VRE.

‘Replacing the surfaces most often touched by staff, patients and visitors with antimicrobial copper equivalents will help reduce the risk of infections spreading via these surfaces,’ Oko says. ‘It can be used as an adjunct to other infection control measures – such as regular hand washing and surface cleaning and disinfecting – to improve patient safety.

Replacing the surfaces most often touched by staff, patients and visitors with antimicrobial copper equivalents will help reduce the risk of infections spreading via these surfaces

‘Reducing the rate of infections means a substantial reduction in a patient’s length of stay, a reduction in their mortality risk and a reduction in overall treatment costs. Antimicrobial copper surfaces make sense from a patient safety point of view as well as a financial one.’

Antimicrobial copper has been tested in clinical trials around the world and is included as an emerging technology in the latest National Evidence-Based Guidelines for Preventing Healthcare-Associated Infections in NHS Hospitals, with studies showing >80% less contamination on copper surfaces than non-copper equivalents. Results from a US clinical trial, funded by the Department of Defense, further observed a 58% reduction in intensive care unit patients’ risk of acquiring a healthcare-associated infection when just six key touch surfaces in their rooms were replaced with antimicrobial copper items.

'In any clinical environment, certain surfaces will be touched maybe hundreds of times, by dozens of people, every day,' explains Andrew Cross of ACT Surfaces, who is working on the Pilgrim project. 'These are the key touch surfaces to identify as they will offer the most benefit when replaced with antimicrobial copper equivalents.'

Oko was keen to source the new products locally, and so ACT Surfaces invited Norwich-based company Brass Age to supply its VETOBAC antimicrobial copper range for the project. Funds are now being raised for the next phase of copper upgrades.

Antimicrobial copper products are available in a variety of colours from companies around the world, and they are listed in an online product directory at www.antimicrobialcopper.org.

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