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Healthcare professionals must redouble hygiene efforts to reduce unacceptable and avoidable' infection rates, says NICE
Doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals can follow simple actions to bring down infection rates in the NHS, says The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.
Around 300,000 people get an infection while being cared for within the NHS in England each year. These healthcare associated infections include pneumonia and infections of the lower respiratory tract (22.8%), urinary tract infections (17.2%) and surgical site infections (15.7%) [i].
Professor Gillian Leng, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Health and Social Care at NICE says: "It is unacceptable that infection rates are still so high within the NHS. Infections are a costly and avoidable burden. They hinder a patient's recovery, can make underlying conditions worse, and reduce quality of life." One in 16 people being treated on the NHS picks up an infection.
As a result, more NHS resources are consumed and the affected patients are at increased risk. Infections can occur in otherwise healthy people, especially if invasive procedures or devices like urinary catheters or vascular access devices are used. These infections can also be passed on to healthcare workers, family members and other carers. NICE has produced a set of specific, concise and measurable statements (based on the institute's guidance and other guidance accredited by NICE). When delivered collectively, the statements should improve the effectiveness, quality, safety and experience of care that people get.
The quality standard contains six statements, including:
* People are prescribed antibiotics in accordance with local antibiotic formularies - as part of a system to stem resistance of infections to antibiotics (this is known as antimicrobial stewardship)
* Patients are looked after by healthcare workers who always clean their hands thoroughly, both immediately before and immediately after contact or care.
* Healthcare workers minimise the risk of infection to people who need a urinary catheter or a vascular access device by following procedures to make sure they are inserted, looked after and removed correctly and safely.
These procedures include cleaning hands, assessing the need for a catheter, using a lubricant when inserting a catheter, using sterile procedures when inserting a vascular access device, emptying the catheter drainage bag when necessary, and removing catheters and vascular access devices as soon as they are no longer needed.
Professor Leng added: "Although there have been major improvements within the NHS in infection control, particularly in relation to Clostridium difficile and MRSA bloodstream infections in the last few years, healthcare associated infections are still a very real threat to patients, their families and carers and staff. This quality standard gives primary, community and secondary care services the most up-to-date advice on the best ways to minimise the risks of infections."
Carol Pellowe, Senior lecturer, Guy's & St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust and member of the committee which developed the standards, said: "This quality standard will promote best practice in infection prevention and control and by providing key areas for action, encourage organisations to sustain their efforts in ensuring patient safety."
Gavin Maxwell, lay member of the committee which developed the standards, said: "This quality standard will help to combat and control the spread of infection, both within health related facilities and across the population at large. As a lay member of the advisory committee, I particularly welcome and support the quality statement relating to responsible prescribing of antibiotics. It will bring substantial benefits."
The NICE quality standard for the infection prevention and control is available on the NICE website at:
17th April 2014