Concerns have been raised by nurses about the potential impact of the fragmentation of infection prevention and control arrangements within the NHS in England.
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.
Recent NHS restructuring 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”.
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.”
“Infection prevention and control is crucial to safe care, patient experience and outcome”
The briefing paper – titled Infection prevention and control within health and social care: commissioning, performance management, and regulation arrangements (England) – sets out four key actions for commissioners at local and national level.
It said commissioning on national infection prevention and control should 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.
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, 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 WTE posts within teams is set according to need.
Ms 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, highlighted that infection prevention and control was “crucial to safe care, patient experience and outcome”.
“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,” she added.