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Healthcare Associated Infections

Recognising Surgical Site Infections

Educational resources to improve practice in diagnosis and reporting of surgical site infections (SSIs) and to aid understanding of the implications of a SSI on the patient.

These resources are part of the intermediate layer of the Scottish Infection Prevention and Control Education Pathway.  Further information about the pathway is available on the pathway webpage.


Surgical site infection is one of the most common types of healthcare associated infection (HAI), estimated to account for 16.5% of inpatient HAI within NHSScotland. Surgical site infections cause excess morbidity and mortality and are estimated on average to double the cost of treatment, mainly due to the resultant increase in length of stay.  Surgical site infections can have serious consequences for patients affected as they can result in increased pain, social disruption and in some cases require additional surgical intervention.

NES and HPS have developed a range of educational resources to improve practice in diagnosis and reporting of surgical site infection (SSI) and understand the implications of SSI for the patient. These resources include:

Train the trainer presentation

Online modules

There are two modules available on learnPro NHS and community portals - NES: Recognising Surgical Site Infections and NES: Recognising Surgical Site Infections (C-Section). The anticipated online learning time is around one hour to complete the module.  Further information about registration and access can be found at our learnPro information page.

Key content

  • Impact of surgical site infections on patients
  • Understanding and applying national surgical site infection definitions
  • Recording a surgical site infection
  • Wound specimen collection
  • Interpreting results

Target audience

All healthcare staff involved in data collection for SSI surveillance, assessment and management of surgical sites and involved in the diagnosis and/or treatment of SSI including the following:

  • Surgical Nurses (including Orthopaedics)
  • Surveillance Nurses (particularly newly appointed)
  • Surgeons
  • Junior medical staff
  • Operating theatre nurses and midwives
  • Surgical practitioners
  • Surgical outpatients clinic staff
  • Obstetrics staff
  • Hospital and community midwives
  • District Nurses
  • General Practitioners

Related Resources

HPS Surgical Site Infection Surveillance programme


Resources launched March 2015. Updated November 2017. Due for review 2019.