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Breakdown in infection control reporting leads to breaches of government’s hygiene code

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A breakdown in infection control reporting at a senior level led to substantial breaches of the government’s hygiene code at a London hospital remaining undisclosed, a senior nurse has told Nursing Times.

The Healthcare Commission issued an improvement notice to Homerton University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in London on 30 December, requiring urgent attention to its infection control systems.

The trust’s chief nurse Pauline Brown said the trust’s infection control committee, a sub committee of the full trust board, was receiving data from the frontline on a regular basis but suggested it was ‘selective’ in passing on infection control failures in its reporting to the board.

‘The focus has been very much on MRSA and Clostridium difficile rates,’ she told Nursing Times.

‘It is fair to say that there needs to be more questioning of some of the information. A lot was taken as read where compliance was reported,’ she added.

‘There needs to be more interrogation of the evidence in the future,’ she added.

Ms Brown took up her post in September, several weeks before Healthcare Commission inspections were undertaken.

She has promised to rectify the problems that were identified by the end of the month in order to hit deadlines set by the commission.

Although C. difficile and MRSA rates are low at the hospital, a spot check by commission inspectors in November revealed only six out of 10 staff were washing their hands properly.

Dirty commodes had also been left in sluices but marked as ready to use and concerns about the layout of the hospital’s endoscopy room had not been acted upon. Additionally, the hospital had planned nine infection control audits last year, but only three were carried out, the inspectors found.

Ms Brown added that staff had been failing to attend mandatory training sessions on infection control. ‘We do have training – we have lots of information about training on infection control. For us the issue was non-attendance and ensuring staff are completing mandatory training.

‘We have to make it clear to all staff – doctors, allied health professionals as well as nurses, about the importance of infection control and hand hygiene,’ she said.

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