In October a Healthcare Commission report into Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Trust revealed that up to 90 patients died between 2004 and 2006 after being infected with Clostridium difficile.
The health secretary responded by announcing plans for a new super-regulator to be set up in April 2009, combining the Healthcare Commission, Mental Health Act Commission and the Commission for Social Care Inspection, with powers to close hospitals and care homes. Also, new powers under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act could, after 6 April 2008, be used against NHS trusts that fail to control hospital-acquired infections.
Each individual – whether staff or hospital visitor – is responsible for maintaining high standards of infection control. If staff complain that standards are not being maintained because of work pressure, what can be done?
It is vital that the staff concerned identify and quantify exactly what is wrong. How much more time is required? Are additional staff needed? What standards are not being met?
A constructive report must be given to immediate management, if possible suggesting remedial action.
If the immediate management fails to note the concerns, send the report to senior management (the cross-infection control officer) and, if necessary, the executive director responsible for infection control on the trust board.
If there is no management action, nurses should be able to report concerns to organisations that inspect NHS premises, such as the Healthcare Commission, the Health
and Safety Executive and Inspectorate and the Clinical Negligence Scheme
Staff are entitled to be protected under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, where they make protected disclosures that include matters of health and safety.
Nurses are reminded – always document details of action and discussions that have taken place.
Bridgit Dimond, MA, LLB, DASA, AHSA, is barrister-at-law and emeritus professor, University of Glamorgan, Pontypridd