Knitting Ban At East Lancashire Hospitals

CHARITY groups have been told to abandon baby knitting projects for fear of spreading deadly infections in hospitals.

Disappointed knitters have been ordered to put down their needles as Burnley General Hospital and Royal Blackburn Hospital will no longer accept blankets, hats and bootees for babies in its neo-natal intensive care units.

Every year hundreds of items are donated by dedicated knitters for the babies, many of whom are premature and too small for manufactured baby clothes.

But groups, including Age Concern and the Mothers’ Union, have been asked not to send anymore as they cannot be washed at high temperatures, which the hospital says is necessary to kill germs.

Rineke Schram, director of infection prevention and Control for East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “In light of the issues we have had in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, we are very keen to learn and improve on the infection control procedures we use in there.

“Following on from the professional guidance received, we have taken the decision not to accept anymore donations of knitted items.”

“All items of clothing and bedding provided by the hospital are ‘thermally disinfected’, that is washed at 71 degrees and held at that temperature for at least three minutes, which would clearly ruin any woollen garments.

“This decision is purely based on what is best for some of the hospital’s most vulnerable patients and we hope we are not causing any offence.

She added that the trust was extremely grateful for all the donations given to it in the past.

The neo natal unit at the Royal Blackburn Hospital has also banned knitted items.

It was hit by an MRSA outbreak in 2007 and traces of superbug ESBL were discovered there in 2008.

Susan Leach, owner of The Village Wool Shop at Crawshawbooth, has been collecting items knitted items for several years.

She said: “Everyone who contributed felt that they were doing something for the children and it will be sad for them if they are no longer able to do so.”

“We have held campaigns every year to collect knitted hats for babies at Fairfield and Burnley and we always get a good collection.

“When we hand them over to the mid-mives and sisters they are always so, so grateful for them.”

Members of the Mothers Union group based at St Peter’s Church, Darwen, and St Paul’s, Hoddlesden, have knitted hundreds of blankets, hats and bootees for tots in neonatal intensive care.

A spokeswoman for the Mothers’ Union said: “Parents are very touched to be given these items but no one wants to be responsible for spreading infection.”

Lancashire Telegraph’s health expert Dr Tom Smith said: “It’s a terrible pity, but sadly the hospital is right – the blankets would need to be cleaned at temperatures above pasteurisation in order to kill all spores.

“Even if only one in 1,000 babies were in danger that is not a risk worth taking.”

Families can still bring in knitted items for their own baby as long as they are washed at home and are only used for that child, to reduce the risk of cross infection.

By Sally Henfield

Source: This is Lancashire

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