For the first time New Zealand has a sophisticated patient safety initiative that will reduce harm caused to patients by surgical site infections (SSIs).

SSIs can cause emotional and financial stress, serious illness, longer hospital stays, long-term disabilities, and can result in loss of life. The consequences for patients, as well as health services, mean that the prevention of SSIs is extremely important.

The good news is that a significant number of SSIs are preventable. To address this, in 2012 the Health Quality & Safety Commission (the Commission) launched the Surgical Site Infection Improvement (SSII) Programme – New Zealand’s first national quality improvement programme to reduce SSIs.

In collaboration with district health boards (DHBs) throughout the country, the SSII Programme has developed and implemented a consistent, evidence-based approach for collecting and reporting high quality data about SSIs.

Further to this, the SSII Programme promotes and encourages culture change and provides guidance on practice improvements that reduce SSIs. DHBs are encouraged to drive SSI improvement against a bundle of practice interventions, consisting of:

  • an antibiotic prophylaxis intervention
  • a skin preparation intervention
  • a clipping not shaving intervention.

Combined, these components will ensure that a cycle of continuous quality improvement for reducing SSIs can be achieved in a sustainable way, contributing to national and international efforts to improve patient safety.

Hip and knee arthroplasty surgery was the first procedure focus for the SSII Programme. All 20 DHBs are participating by collecting and reporting local data and driving improvement against the recommended practice interventions within their DHB.

The second procedure focus of the SSII Programme is cardiac surgery. Five DHBs in New Zealand perform cardiac surgery and manage a high volume of cardiac procedures. Data collection for cardiac surgery is due to begin in early 2015.

A third procedure, possibly caesarean section surgery, is being considered.

Championing the SSII Programme, nationally and at DHB level, are a range of clinical leaders including surgeons, clinical microbiologists, perioperative nurses and infection prevention control practitioners. Their support and input is pivotal to the success of the SSII Programme.

With all DHBs now on board, over time, the SSII Programme will:

  • improve patient safety and experience
  • reduce costs associated with SSIs – freeing up scarce health sector resources
  • free up valuable bed days
  • enable DHBs to meet and report against the SSI Quality & Safety Markers.

Auckland and Canterbury DHBs are the lead agency for the SSII Programme, delivering it nationally in partnership with the Commission.

Last updated 09/10/2018