A TEAM at Basingstoke hospital have discovered a simple, innovative and effective way of combating cases of pneumonia – tilting a patient’s bed-head.

A trial carried out by the Infection Prevention and Control team at Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (HHFT) found that a 30 degree bed-head tilt, in addition to improved oral hygiene for patients, more than halved the numbers of Hospital Acquired Pneumonia, HAP.

The respiratory infection, which occurs 48 hours or more following admission to hospital, is usually caused by bacteria and is one of the most common causes of hospital-acquired infection within the UK.

It can be a severe, even deadly infection, and often increases the length of stay in hospital by weeks.

A total of 1,697 patients on the acute medical wards at Basingstoke and Winchester hospitals took part in the trial, with a very small minority not being able to tolerate the bed-head tilt.

The results were remarkable, with only two per cent of patients with a tilted bed-head developing pneumonia compared to five per cent of the patients, who were treated as normal.

The tilted bed-head is effective because patients lying flat can be less likely to clear normal secretions, in which bacteria can travel into the lower respiratory tract and the lungs, causing the condition.

By reducing the bacteria in the mouth by improving oral hygiene, and raising the head of the bed to make it easier for patients to clear secretions, the chances of developing pneumonia are dramatically reduced.

Project lead nurse Linda Swanson, specialist practitioner in infection prevention and control at HHFT, presented her findings to colleagues at Basingstoke hospital at a staff event where she received a prize for the best presentation.

The data gathered from the project will be shared across the NHS so more patients can benefit.

Linda said: “I was delighted this was chosen as the best project. It just goes to show that a few simple changes can really improve our patient care.

“It is better for our patients and also better for the trust if we can keep the hospital stay as short as is clinically safe.”