Practices face revised infection control standards from NICE

Practices will need to meet updated standards for preventing healthcare-associated infections after NICE updated its guideline.

Nurse disposing of a used needle in a sharps bin  (Photo: SPL)
Nurse disposing of a used needle in a sharps bin (Photo: SPL)

The new rules spell out infection prevention and control measures that should be taken by all healthcare workers involved in care of patients. It applies to care in the community, such as in general practices or care homes, as well as in patients' homes.

It states that, as a minimum, any healthcare workers in these settings should be educated about standard principles of infection prevention and control. They must also be trained in hand decontamination, the use of personal protective equipment, and the safe use and disposal of sharps.

Equally, patients and carers should be educated about the benefits of hand decontamination and how to do so.

Practices must also ensure that healthcare workers can access appropriate supplies of materials for hand decontamination, sharps containers and personal protective equipment.

'Top of the agenda'
Kent GP Dr Julian Spinks, who helped develop the guideline, said: 'At a time where increasingly complex procedures are being provided in primary care, infection control is becoming more and more important.

'This guideline provides information about effective and practical measures that primary care clinicians can take to reduce the burden of healthcare-associated infection and forms an important part of the armoury for those of us who wish to provide high quality care in the community.'

Christine Carson, programme director at NICE's Centre for Clinical Practice, said there was a shift towards care outside of hospital but that infection control is just as important in community settings.

She added: 'These issues should be at the top of the agenda for anyone who provides care for a patient, regardless of setting and regardless of whether they are a healthcare professional, an informal carer or a family member.'

Healthcare-associated infections are estimated to cost the NHS approximately £1bn a year, NICE said. An estimated £56m of this is incurred after patients are discharged from hospital.

The GPC revealed last month that PCTs were forcing some GPs to take infection control training to pass appraisals, a move it condemned.

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