Infection prevention and control

Discovering that you have cancer, and needing to come into hospital, is a very worrying and stressful time. We know that anxiety about healthcare-associated infections such as MRSA or C. difficile can add to your worries.

The Royal Marsden is absolutely committed to patient safety, and that includes doing everything we can to prevent people in our care acquiring any sort of infection.

This can sometimes be difficult, as some treatments for cancer (such as chemotherapy) suppress the immune system and make the person receiving them particularly vulnerable to infections, so we make sure that all our staff are trained in infection prevention and control. They receive this training when they first start at The Royal Marsden and it is repeated every year. This ensures that they are aware of the risks and do everything that they can to reduce them.

In addition, The Royal Marsden operates a 'Search and Destroy' policy for MRSA: we actively check all new patients to see if they are carrying the germ, and when we find it we do everything we can to remove it before it can cause an infection.

Number of infections

Like every other NHS Trust in England, The Royal Marsden reports numbers of particular infections to the national surveillance system. These infections include bloodstream infections (also called bacteraemias) caused by MRSA and cases of C. difficile infection.

In June 2022 we reported zero cases of MRSA and four cases of C. difficile that were attributable to The Royal Marsden.

Please note that while we make every effort to ensure that the monthly numbers we display are accurate, reports to the national surveillance system undergo a comprehensive validation process that may result in small discrepancies between these reports and the final numbers published by the Health Protection Agency.

Infection Prevention and Control Team

The Royal Marsden has a specialist Infection Prevention and Control Team (IPCT). Among other activities, the team provides training and education, advises on isolating patients and other protective measures, and monitors the cleanliness of the hospitals. The team is also closely involved with all new developments to make sure that infection prevention and control is an integral part of everything we do.


Environmental cleaning at The Royal Marsden is carried out by our commercial partners, ISS Mediclean, who have worked with us for many years. Cleaning services are monitored daily and any problems are usually resolved immediately.

All our wards are cleaned at the standard recommended for 'High Risk' or ‘Very High Risk’ areas in the National Standards of Cleanliness in the NHS, a higher standard than would normally be applied in most hospital wards.

If you have any concerns about the cleanliness of any ward or department or any item of equipment, please tell us. You can talk to the staff where you are or ask to speak to the Matron. If you prefer, you can share your concerns with the Patient Advisory Liaison Service (PALS) or contact the IPCT directly.

Hand hygiene: it's OK to ask

Good hand hygiene is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of infection in hospital.

The Royal Marsden does everything possible to ensure that staff clean their hands before any activity that involves contact with patients, but we are all human and sometimes we forget. If you think someone should have cleaned their hands and you have not seen them do it, please ask them to do it again where you can see.

What you can do to help


  • If you see anything you are not happy about, whether it is the cleanliness of the area you are in, the hand hygiene of staff, or some other matter, please tell us.
  • Remind staff to clean their hands if you have not seen them do it
  • Wash your own hands frequently, particularly before eating. You may want to bring a container of moist hand wipes into hospital with you to make this easier for you. Please ask your nurse if you need help
  • Bath or shower regularly
  • Tell us if you have any signs of infection, particularly if you have diarrhoea
  • Wear closed-in shoes or slippers – don't walk around barefoot
  • If you have a wound or a device such as a catheter or drip, don't touch it unnecessarily
  • Keep your bed area as tidy and clutter-free as you can to make it easier to clean thoroughly


  • If you see anything you are not happy about, please tell us
  • Wash your hands or use the alcohol hand rub at the entrance to the ward at the start and end of your visit
  • If the person you are visiting is in a single room, please check with the nursing staff before going in to see if you need take any extra precautions
  • Please don't visit the hospital if you are ill, particularly if you are suffering from diarrhoea or vomiting. If you have had diarrhoea or vomiting, please wait at least 72 hours before visiting – you may still be infectious
  • Don't handle devices such as drips unnecessarily
  • Please don't sit on the beds – if there aren't enough chairs ask a member of staff to help

Read our patient information about reducing the risk of healthcare-associated infection.