Screening: MRSA frequently asked questions 

This page contains answers to some frequently asked questions (FAQs) about MRSA.

Why am I being screened for MRSA?

Many people carry MRSA on their skin or in their nose.

If the NHS hospital find you are carrying MRSA before you go in, it can use a simple treatment to get rid of as much of the bacteria as possible. This means there is a smaller chance of you getting an MRSA infection or passing MRSA on to another patient.

When and where will I be screened for MRSA?

Usually you will be screened before you come into hospital for an operation. This may be in a pre-admission assessment clinic, an outpatient clinic or sometimes at your GP surgery.
Typically, a nurse will take swabs as part of other checks, such as blood pressure and blood tests, leading up to your hospital stay.

How will I be screened for MRSA?

A nurse will take a sample of bacteria using a swab. A swab is a cotton bud that is placed on the area of skin to be tested. Swabs may be taken from different places, such as the inside of your nose, your armpit or your groin. Swabbing is painless and only takes a few seconds.

When will I get the results from the swabs?

Your swabs will be sent to a laboratory, which tests them for MRSA. The results usually take three to five days, but may come back on the same day.

What happens after I have been screened?

If you are found to be carrying MRSA on your skin or in your nose, you will be contacted by the hospital or your GP. Don't worry if you are contacted. Many people carry MRSA. Carrying MRSA does not make you ill and you are not a risk to healthy people. Healthy older people, pregnant women and children are not usually affected by MRSA. A doctor or nurse will let you know what to do next.

If you are not carrying MRSA, you are unlikely to be contacted by the hospital or your GP. If you are not contacted, continue with your hospital care as planned.

What happens if I am a carrier of MRSA? 

If you are carrying MRSA on your skin, you may not be able to have your planned operation or procedure straight away. You may need to be treated for MRSA first to protect you and other patients from getting ill.

What treatment is used to get rid of MRSA from my skin?

Your doctor or nurse will discuss treatment with you. It usually involves using an antibacterial wash or powder and a special cream in your nose.

You may be asked to change your clothes, sheets and pillowcases every day, usually for five days.

You do not need to be in hospital while you are using the treatment. Continue until the day of your operation or procedure or until the five days are complete. You do not usually need to be screened again before you come into hospital.

What if my operation is urgent?

If your operation is urgent and you need to go into hospital quickly, you may be admitted to a side room in the hospital and started on MRSA treatment as soon as possible.

Page last reviewed: 13/06/2013

Next review due: 13/06/2015