Skip to content

Healthcare associated infections

Related Links

Tell us if you want any of the documents on this page in an alternative format.

This section deals with healthcare associated infections (HCAIs) and includes information on some of the most frequently asked questions.

Patients enter hospital either because they are ill or because they require surgery. Both illness and surgery have a direct effect on the immune system and therefore such patients are at an increased risk from infection.

What is a healthcare associated infection?

Healthcare-associated infection (HCAI) refers to infections that occur as a result of contact with the healthcare system in its widest sense - from care provided in your own home, to general practice, nursing home care and care in acute hospitals. The term has recently been coined in recognition that increasingly complex procedures are undertaken outside hospitals. Previously, when most complex healthcare was hospital based, the term hospital acquired infection was used.

What does the term hospital-acquired infection mean?

Hospital-acquired infection (HAI) (also known as nosocomial infection) has a strict definition. It refers to an infection that develops in a patient 48 hours or more after admission to a hospital. Infections that occur within the first 48 hours are considered to have been picked up in the community and were incubating prior to admission. These are then referred to as community acquired infections.

The majority of healthcare acquired infections are acquired from patients’ own micro flora. Indeed, Staphylococcus Aureus is found on the skin or in the noses of approximately 30% of people. Some strains of Staphylococcus Aureus have developed resistance to antibiotics. The most common strain is Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA). In the majority of patients, MRSA will not cause a problem because it is part of the normal flora residing on the skin.