Objectives: To assess the knowledge and current tetanus prevention practices of various staff members in accident and emergency (A&E) departments.
Design, setting and participants: A structured questionnaire containing 16 questions on tetanus guidance, anti-tetanus practice, vaccination preparations and information on the population served by the department was sent to medical and nursing staff in A&E departments across England.
Results: 366 completed questionnaires from 67 hospitals were returned. 48.9% of the questionnaires were completed by the medical staff and 39.9% by the nursing staff at various grades. 75% of respondents said that their department had a local tetanus guideline, but only 29% stated that the tetanus guidelines were always followed. 31.4% of respondents said that injecting drug users were managed as a high-risk group in their department. Many respondents did not follow the national policy; they tended to err on the side of caution when it came to defining and treating tetanus-prone wounds, with 22.1% stating that they would consider any wound tetanus prone. Contrary to current Department of Health guidelines, 46.2% of respondents said that they would give a booster dose if the fifth dose had been given >10 years ago.
Conclusions: There are clear differences between the recommended guidelines for tetanus prevention and current practice in A&E departments. The changes announced in 2002 do not seem to have been widely implemented. As a result, the apparent success of the national tetanus vaccination programme may be the result of more cautious clinical practice than would be expected from the UK policy. If national recommendations for tetanus are implemented in clinical practice, then the impact on control of the disease should be monitored closely.
- A&E, accident and emergency
- HTIG, human tetanus immunoglobulin
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Competing interests: None.