“progress! Urinary catheter safety”

Urinary catheters are among the most frequent causes of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). In 2015, Patient Safety Switzerland and Swissnoso launched the third national pilot programme “progress! Urinary catheter safety”, which is supported by the FOPH’s Quality Strategy. It concluded in 2018 – with positive results.

Half of all urinary catheters are unnecessary

One out of every four patients in a Swiss hospital will receive a urinary catheter. Bacteria can get into the urine through this point of entry, which increases the risk of a urinary tract infection. This in turn extends the period of hospitalisation and requires additional treatment. Roughly 50% of the 350,000 urinary catheters placed annually in Switzerland do not have a clear medical indication.

“Rarer, shorter, safer”

Since 2016, the Quality Strategy of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) had been supporting the pilot programme “progress! Urinary catheter safety”. “progress!” aimed to reduce the use of urinary catheters in hospitals and avoid the associated urinary tract infections as well as other complications. At its core, the programme was a bundle of interventions and an educational campaign for hospital personnel. The interventions followed the maxim “rarer” (catheterisation only in cases of clear indication), “shorter” (daily review of the necessity for a catheter) and “safer” (correct insertion and care of the catheter).

Medical staff improved their knowledge

The pilot concluded in 2018 and delivered positive results overall. Medical staff showed the clearest improvement; they exhibited a marked increase in their attention to the issue and strengthened their expertise in the safe handling of urinary catheters. In fact, the use of catheters was reduced, as were non-infectious complications such as haemorrhaging from the urethra. But since the incidence of urinary tract infections in the participating hospitals was very low even during the baseline survey, no change in the incidence of HAIs could be ascertained.

Last modification 26.11.2023

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Federal Office of Public Health FOPH
Division of Communicable Diseases
Infection Control and Control Measures Section
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