‘It seems that saving lives is not exciting enough to knock the financial crisis off the media stage’
Barely a month goes by without an announcement or new initiative related to the prevention and control of infection. The summer has been no exception and the autumn will likely bring more new challenges and reminders.
There have been reminders of the ‘Board to Ward’ culture, necessary to embedded infection prevention and cleanliness throughout a whole organisation, with the publication of the second version of ‘Going Further Faster II’.
There has been operational guidance on MRSA screening; to assist healthcare providers in achieving the requirement to screen all elective admissions for MRSA by the end of March 2009. More guidance on this initiative is likely as this letter raised more questions than it answered, especially for community and mental health settings.
In September there was the good news that John Reid’s target to halve MRSA cases by 2008 had been successfully achieved. This target was set in 2004 and many, both inside and outside the profession, believed it to be unachievable.
How sad then that, like so much good news, this great success wasn’t given huge media interest. It seems that saving lives is not exciting enough to knock the financial crisis off the media stage.
Achieving this reduction has taken enormous amounts of money, resources and time; a plethora of initiatives, targets and guidance. But despite all the coming together of expertise and new technology no-one has found anything more effective at preventing and controlling infection in a healthcare setting than the humble handwash.
This month sees two important dates in the Infection Prevention and Control Calendar – the first ever Global Handwashing Day on 15th October and the UK’s Infection Control Week 20th -24th October 2008.
The Global Handwashing website serves as a sobering reminder of the importance of handwashing - clean hands really do save lives. Children all over the world are exposed to a high incidence of diarrhoea and pneumonia due to the inability to access soap and water to wash their hands.
The huge financial expenditure and technological advances used in UK infection control are beyond the reach of many countries. Fortunately, for the less well off handwashing remains the single most cost-effective healthcare intervention anywhere in the world.
The forty-eight page planner’s guide for Global Handwashing Day cites England as an example in its text. The authors do not praise our success in halving cases of MRSA bacteraemia or our record for reducing cases of Clostridium difficile. Instead they use an English study to illustrate the point that, even in countries where soap and water are plentiful, people only washed their hands on half the occasions they should.
What a sad indictment and a shame for us all.
Perhaps you can use Global Handwashing Day and Infection Control Week to start making a difference with your family, colleagues, patients and clients.