Nurses warn of infection control risk following NHS reforms

Royal College of Nursing and Infection Prevention Society joint report claims a lack of specialist infection control staff and transfer of public health responsibility to local authorities is threatening anti-HCAI measures

Hospitals are stepping up infection control measures following the Pseudomonas outbreak in Northern Ireland

The ‘fragmentation’ of the NHS is threatening the success of infection prevention and control measures, nurses have warned.

A joint paper published by the Royal College of Nursing and the Infection Prevention Society points to the complexity that now exists within the health service and its ongoing impact.

The restructuring of health and care services and the transfer of public health responsibilities to councils has resulted in the ‘loss of some specialist infection control expertise and a lack of central oversight of the situation as the threat of antimicrobial resistance increases’, the paper states.

Rose Gallagher, the RCN’s professional lead on infection prevention and control, said: “Any fragmentation in availability or access to specialist advice by commissioning or regulatory organisations creates a risk that transfers directly to patients.”

The briefing paper – Infection prevention and control within health and social care: commissioning, performance management, and regulation arrangements (England) – sets out four key actions for commissioners at both local and national levels.

Firstly it calls for commissioning on national infection prevention and control to be considered by Public Health England as a ‘core element’ of any future national strategy, as well as efforts to support reductions in anti-microbial resistance.

Any fragmentation in availability or access to specialist advice by commissioning or regulatory organisations creates a risk that transfers directly to patients

All commissioning organisations should have in place a formal process to provide assurance to their respective boards of the level of infection prevention support available to them and to what extent this meets the organisation’s needs.

In addition, the paper says information should be detailed by NHS providers within annual reports on how budgets and resources relating to infection control are set and utilised – including information on how the number or posts within teams is set according to need.

Gallagher said she hoped the briefing paper would ‘stimulate thinking’ and allow important questions to be asked about how and where infection prevention specialist advice was provided.

Professor Heather Loveday, president of the Infection Prevention Society, added: “This briefing precedes the publication of a Commissioning Toolkit in the autumn of 2015, which will assist commissioning organisations to focus on important quality indicators for preventing and controlling infection so that no person is harmed by a preventable infection.”

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