Surgical Site Infection Survey

GIRFT Surgical Site Infection programme

Surgical site infection (SSI) is an important area of focus for GIRFT.  Post-surgery infections can cause significant harm to patients and result in increased hospital stay, readmissions and re-operations. They are also a significant cost to the NHS.

During our GIRFT reviews of surgical departments across NHS trusts in England, we noticed the lack of awareness of SSI rates by some frontline clinicians. Hence the GIRFT SSI programme was set up to review SSI rates in surgical units in England and to review the current practice in prevention of SSIs.

The GIRFT SSI work seeks to engage frontline clinicians in the data collection process and explore variation in surgical practice and outcomes for a wide range of procedures across breast surgery, cardiothoracic surgery, cranial neurosurgery, ENT surgery, general surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology, ophthalmology, oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthopaedic surgery, paediatric general surgery, spinal surgery, urology and vascular surgery.

GIRFT SSI survey 2019

The first GIRFT SSI survey in 2017 helped our understanding of SSI rates for each specialty and started to identify areas of good practice which can be shared. Trusts used the information to review their SSI rates and look at where improvements can be made to prevention methods.  Building on this, a second survey in 2019, asked all trusts to participate to help deliver more comprehensive data and improved learning.

This second GIRFT SSI Survey ran over a period of six months from 1 May 2019 to 30 October 2019.  Data gathered during the survey is  shared with the trusts that participated – each trust receives an individual trust data pack with national benchmarks for SSI rates for the surgical specialties being surveyed.

Participants from more than 100 NHS sites and more than 50 independent sector sites contributed to the 2019 data collection, before the SSI survey portal closed in December 2019.  GIRFT’s clinical leads have been consulted on the survey results and contributed their specialist knowledge and insight.

How do trusts benefit from participating?

The SSI surveys have been established to:

  • Identify the surgical site infection rates of specific procedures within key surgical specialties.
  • Assess local practice in the prevention of surgical site infection for the specified procedures.
Participating in the survey should be an opportunity to better understand a trust’s SSI rates, to review and improve local practice, and to report on this to the trust management and board meetings.

Overall results and good practice are shared nationally.

Which specialties and procedures are included?

Please see the SSI Survey FAQ document for more detail and a list of specialties and procedures included in the survey.

Professor Tim Briggs OBE

Joint Clinical Lead for SSI

Consultant orthopaedic surgeon at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, GIRFT programme Chair, National Director of Clinical Improvement for the NHS
Annakan Navaratnam

Clinical Fellow for SSI

NHS England and NHS Improvement National Medical Director’s Clinical Fellow

The GIRFT reports present high-level findings to promote wider understanding of the clinical impact of SSI rates.  GIRFT hopes they will encourage regular review of the current practice in prevention of SSIs.  Better scrutiny and investigation of SSIs will drive improvements in patient safety, treatment outcomes and delivery of care.

The GIRFT SSI survey team is available for support and assistance with any queries. Please contact project manager Anne-Marie Ridgeon: