Hygiene products would stop spread of killer bugs’

FIVE thousand hospital patients are dying needlessly each year because the NHS is not allowed to buy the hygiene products that would prevent it, a Hemingford Abbots virologist claimed this week. Harley Farmer, an Australian vet with a PhD in virology who

FIVE thousand hospital patients are dying needlessly each year because the NHS is not allowed to buy the hygiene products that would prevent it, a Hemingford Abbots virologist claimed this week.

Harley Farmer, an Australian vet with a PhD in virology who has lived in the Huntingdonshire village for 18 years, runs a company in Norfolk whose anti-microbial products successfully prevent cases of infection becoming outbreaks on cruise ships, international hotels and care homes.

But NHS procurement rules prevent hospitals - such as Hinchingbrooke, which is recovering from an outbreak of the diarrhoea and vomiting Norovirus - from using the products.

Although the Health Protection Agency has accredited the NewGenn disinfectant products for use on cruise vessels, they cannot be used by the NHS because they do not appear on lists of approved products.


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They also control cases of E Coli, MRSA and clostridium difficile, which are among organisms responsible for 5,000 "avoidable" deaths in Britain each year from hospital-acquired infections, Dr Farmer told The Hunts Post.

"There is a presumption in the NHS that any case will inevitably become an outbreak. That need not happen. Individual cases can be confined to adjacent beds.

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"There is also a presumption that the same number of people will die every year. Those deaths are avoidable."

An outbreak costs an average of £300,000 to deal with, so Hinchingbrooke probably has infection-related costs of around £1million a year - considerably less than a year's supply of the products that could have prevented them, said NewGenn's chairman, Dr Farmer, who developed them with the help of a £500,000 Government grant.

A major obstacle stems from the HPA's setting up of a "rapid review panel" to look at new products the NHS might use. But it was so swamped with work that it re-defined "new" to include only products introduced within the previous 12 months, effectively excluding NewGenn from consideration when the purchasing and supplies agency limited the NHS to approved products.

So, when scientists are looking for infection control products, NewGenn is not on the approved lists and could be used only by a brave chief executive in a foundation trust hospital that controls its own finances.

Dr Farmer says his products are gentler and more pleasant than those actually used, can be used more intensively and therefore more effectively.

Infection control, he said, is a collaboration between, hospital managers, medical staff, patients and visitors. If managers bought more acceptable products, the others involved would be more likely to use them.

"That's what the international prevention control establishment can't get its mind round. It's simple and it's cheap - two words that seem to rankle with the medical establishment," added Dr Farmer, who is due to publish a thriller on the subject early next year.

Mark Millar, Hinchingbrooke's chief executive, promised to do what he could to help Dr Farmer's company. "If he writes to me with details, I can see if there's anything the NHS procurement system can do," he told The Hunts Post.

"But as an individual hospital, even if we were a foundation trust, we would have to satisfy ourselves that claims made for products were true, and we don't have the capacity to quality-assure products. We can't do independent testing.

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