What is infection prevention?
Infection Prevention is the practice of preventing the spread of micro-organisms – bacteria and viruses which cause disease and, most importantly, healthcare associated infections by implementing a range of precautionary measures commonly known as Standard Precautions. Techniques include: frequent hand washing, wearing personal protective equipment e.g. disposable gloves and aprons; safe handling and disposal of sharps and healthcare waste; cleaning, disinfection and sterilisation of medical devices; environmental cleaning.
Who does it apply to?
Preventing and controlling infections should be one of your primary concerns if you work in the health and care industries. Preventing infections, as well as controlling their spread, will ensure that your service users have the best chance of remaining well. It will help avoid outbreaks of infection within your residential care environment – such as Norovirus (diarrhoea and vomiting) as well as respiratory infections.
Regulated providers of health and social care are required to comply with all relevant legislation, expert guidance and evidence-based practice as specified. The key driver for compliance is the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014, which provides the over-arching regulatory framework for registration with the Care Quality Commission for all health and care providers. Infection prevention and control is one of the essential quality standards required to be implemented by all providers. Guidance relating to Infection Prevention and Control standards can be found in the Code of Practice for the prevention and control of infections and related guidance (2015) published by the Department of Health. Compliance with infection prevention and control standards should be documented and monitored to ensure best practice at all times.
What does this mean for you and your care company?
Infection can be a costly business. Outbreaks of infection can lead to increased morbidity and mortality amongst service users, and can have a significant impact on your business continuity, as well as a knock-on effect to the local health and care economy. Outbreaks of infection can close wards in hospitals and result in forced closure of care facilities by local health protection units, in order to limit the spread of infection. Outbreaks put staff at risk of illness themselves, and could leave you relying on temporary staff to fill sickness gaps and enable safe care to be delivered. Serious breaches of infection prevention and control standards can, on occasion, result in medico-legal challenges, leaving the care company liable for damages as well as loss of reputation. Prevent infection before it occurs by ensuring staff are well trained and provided with appropriate resources and time. Implementing standard precautions is necessary not just for your service users, but for the wellbeing of your whole company.
In order to ensure delivery of the highest standards of care, you need to implement comprehensive infection prevention and control strategies in the form of an annual work programme. This programme will initially identify gaps in current ways of working, as well as resource deficiencies. By undertaking an initial gap analysis or risk assessment, you will subsequently be able to identify issues requiring improvement. These can then be assessed for both cost and importance before prioritising into a unit/organisation-wide work programme with the ultimate aim of ensuring compliance with infection prevention and control standards across all operations, keeping infection management at the forefront of everyone’s minds. From cleaning operatives to senior management, everyone in your facility should understand the importance of infection prevention and control and the practices (standards) expected of them.
Preventing infection and maintaining control
Infections can spread quickly, and their consequences can be significant. Infection prevention aims to reduce the risk of contamination in care facilities and to keep exposure to a minimum. Though primarily associated with hospitals, infection prevention is just as important in residential care facilities, outpatient clinics, primary care environments – GP practices, health and medical centres – mental health units and custody suites. Infections occur in both public and private health and care sectors.
Infection prevention should be carried out by all members of staff at all times. Every action and procedure can be made safer through the correct application of infection prevention and control training and provision of up to date evidence-based written policies, procedures and guidelines. The experienced specialist consultants at Infection Prevention Solutions can provide employee training (both induction and mandatory) as well as more focused and accredited courses for staff requiring a higher level of knowledge. In addition, Infection Prevention Solutions provides a wide range of written materials, as well as offering audits and managed infection prevention services. We provide ongoing specialist guidance and advice specifically for the named service provider. Contact us today for more information.
Understanding why infections require prevention and control is of paramount importance. Ensuring you and your staff have access to appropriate, up to date and evidence-based guidance and support will help ensure that your facility is at minimal risk of an outbreak and that service users’ health and wellbeing is not being compromised.
Preventing infection versus controlling infection
Infection prevention focuses on ensuring that infections do not get the chance to take hold. Controlling infection is slightly different, instead focusing on the management of an infection in an individual service user or ensuring appropriate control measures are in place to minimise the spread of an outbreak of infection. Some infections are unavoidable and when they occur, appropriate control measures should be in place to minimise its effects on the individual service user and, if it is a transmissible infection, ensuring it does not spread. However, not all infections spread easily from person to person. Some infections do not spread at all but can cause serious and sometimes life-threatening consequences for the affected individual. Avoiding the spread of a transmissible infection to another service user or to a staff member is the key aim of a control strategy. Prevention looks at everyday practices and interventions, ensuring, where appropriate, that an infection has little or no opportunity to take hold, thus removing the need to control its spread.
Trusting a specialist team with the task of infection prevention (and control) can leave you free to concentrate on your company. From training staff in appropriate practices to addressing areas that need improvement, Infection Prevention Solutions consultants can support you by undertaking a full assessment of your current practices and processes, and identify the services you need to ensure compliance with the essential standard of infection prevention and control. From there, we can help you make your practice safer and ensure that infection is not a cause for concern.