Thank you for printing our content at
This site is archived and is no longer updated.

Please visit for up­-to-­date information from the Health Quality & Safety Commission.

Posted 26 Nov 2013 in Healthcare Associated Infections

Surveillance is one of the key components of the Health Quality & Safety Commission’s national Surgical Site Infection Improvement (SSII) Programme, led by Auckland and Canterbury District Health Boards (DHBs).

A surgical site infection (SSI) is an infection that develops as a result of a surgical procedure. SSIs are associated with increased morbidity and mortality, prolonged hospital stays and increased health care costs.

Surveillance can be defined as the systematic collection, management, analysis, interpretation, and reporting of data for use in the planning, implementation and evaluation of health care. (Cruikshank & Ferguson, 2008).[1] Surveillance with timely feedback to surgeons and key stakeholders has been shown to be an important strategy to reduce SSI.

All 20 DHBs are now engaged in the national SSII programme which is currently focused on elective orthopaedic procedures for hip and knee replacement. Surveillance data is being collected on all patients who undergo these procedures with 90 day follow-up to identify those patients who develop an infection during their initial hospital admission or are readmitted for surgical wound infection.

The SSII programme initially tested and refined its surveillance processes in early 2013 in eight development site DHBs across the country. National rollout of the programme began in July 2013. Agreed infection definitions as well as a consistent approach to data collection, analysis and interpretation ensure that standardised reports can be provided at a local and national level.

An effective surveillance system can be a key driver for change by making it possible to evaluate the effectiveness of improvement interventions. Timely feedback to surgical teams, managers and other stakeholders enables and supports change to happen.

Over the next four months, to complement the work being carried out by the SSII programme, the Open for better care campaign will be promoting a bundle of interventions, with a particular focus on one each month:

  • November 2013: SSI surveillance
  • December 2013: Correct use of prophylactic antibiotics
  • January/February 2014: Using appropriate skin preparation before surgery
  • March 2014: Clipping not shaving the surgical site.


  1.  Cruickshank M, Ferguson J, Editors. Executive summary. Reducing harm to patients from healthcare associated infection: the role of surveillance: Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare, Canberra July 2008. pp 3-15.