Hull hospitals invest in theatre environmental monitoring systems

Hull University Teaching NHS Trust has bought three SAS Super 180 air samplers from specialist supplier of environmental monitoring and process validation systems, Cherwell Laboratories, for environmental monitoring of the operating theatres at its Castle Hill Hospital near Cottingham and Hull Royal Infirmary, to ensure surgical site cleanliness for infection control purposes.

The Trust had two ‘ageing pieces’ of air sampling equipment for microbiological monitoring for surgical site infection prevention. When one broke ‘beyond repair’, the remaining ‘large, cumbersome instrument’ – which was trolley-based and required an external electricity supply – ‘proved very inefficient at covering multiple theatres’ across its sites. 

Greta Johnson, lead nurse, Department of Infection, put forward a business case which questioned whether air sampling should continue, given that there is no regulatory requirement for plenum ventilated theatres. If it was to continue, new equipment would be required. It was concluded that air sampling was important, and funds for new air samplers were made available.

The Trust’s Infection Control team then investigated a number of different companies and air samplers, and decided the SAS Super 180 air sampler from Cherwell was the best option. “We chose Cherwell’s SAS sampler as it is compact, easy-to-use, simple to maintain, and fit for purpose in sampling theatre environments,” Greta Johnson explained. “Cherwell was also able to provide training and comprehensive servicing.” The Trust now has three SAS air samplers, one for Castle Hill Hospital, one for Hull Royal Infirmary, and a back-up sampler.

Cherwell says that the SAS samplers’ small size and simplicity have improved sampling processes, and enhanced environmental monitoring practices, at the Trust. It said: “The old sampling device was very dated, trolley-based, and required an extension cable. It was proving hard to clean the multiple components, the sampler was cumbersome to position, and generally difficult to use. In essence, to undertake accurate sampling, staff had to run the device for two minutes with a stopwatch, and then calculate the final CFU after incubation.”

The training Cherwell provided to the Infection Control team covered three areas of the SAS sampler – the instrument’s cleanliness and sterilisation, sampling and maintenance, and its ‘overall convenience’.

The company said: “Cleaning the SAS Super 180 is extremely simple; alcohol spray or impregnated wipes can be used to disinfect the surface. The drilled sampling head can be readily checked, wiped clean, or autoclaved. With the media plate placement area underneath the head, the instrument can be turned on to simply draw a mist of disinfecting alcohol spray through the device. Furthermore, as the sampler is designed for cleanroom purposes, it can also be sterilised using vaporised hydrogen peroxide.


“The sampling directions for volume size and delayed sampling on the SAS Super 180 are also intuitive. The Trust’s Infection Control team found the SAS Super very easy to use, due to its visual and audible cues, which help inform the user about its status. While the Trust’s old system required prior testing to ensure the accuracy of the plate height, the SAS Super 180 needs no such adjustments. The device’s portability and speed of use also contribute to making it ideal for the environmental monitoring of theatre environments.”



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