Our oral care innovation project has been shortlisted for the Quality Improvement Initiative of the Year category at the HSJ Patient Safety Awards 2020, which showcases safety, culture and experience in patient care. The winner will be announced in an online ceremony in November 2020, as part of the Patient Safety Virtual Congress and Awards.

The innovative project was funded by CW+ and introduced at West Middlesex University Hospital by two nurses on the stroke ward who saw the need to reduce the incidence of pneumonia in patients with swallowing difficulties. Angela Chick and Ahlam Wynne understood that, if swallowed, bacteria in a patient’s mouth could lead to infection in the lungs, often resulting in pneumonia which may also prove fatal.

nurse tending to older female patient

The project consists of assessing patients by rating them low, medium or high risk of mouth infection, before treating them with a suction device and mouth care kit. The kit hangs on the patient’s bed, acting as a visible reminder to those needing to use them.

The successful initiative reduced the incidence of pneumonia for people with swallowing difficulties on the stroke ward by 67% in 2018, compared with the previous year. Antibiotic use on the stroke ward also dropped in that time, as did the number of cases of hospital-acquired pneumonia (HAP) on the same ward.

Angela and Ahlam subsequently expanded their approach across Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust; as a result, staff now routinely assess the mouth care of incoming patients, using the kits for those who need them.

This project is now part of our CW Innovation programme, which focuses on introducing and embedding innovation projects that improve patient care, patient experience and the way we run our hospitals.