The health Secretary has launched plans to reduce healthcare-associated infections that include displaying ward E. coli rates and appointing a senior nurse as a new national infection control lead.
Jeremy Hunt announced the new drive to halve the number of gram-negative bloodstream infections by 2020 at an infection control summit earlier this week.
“They will save doctors and nurses time, and save the NHS money”
E. coli infections – which represent 65% of gram-negative infections – have increased by a fifth in the last five years, killed more than 5,500 patients last year and are set to cost the NHS £2.3bn by 2018.
In addition, the Department of Health noted there was large variation in hospital infection rates, with the worst performers having more than five times the number of cases than the best.
Rates can be cut with better hygiene and improved patient care in hospitals, surgeries and care homes, such as ensuring staff, patients and visitors regularly wash their hands, it suggested.
Staff using insertion devices such as catheters can develop infections like E. coli if they are not inserted properly, left in too long or if patients are not properly hydrated, it highlighted.
The government said the new plans built on the progress made in infection control since 2010 – highlighting that the number of MRSA cases has been reduced by 57% and C. difficile by 45%.
“This is a clear plan to achieve real change across the NHS”
Under the new plans, NHS staff hand hygiene indicators will be published for the first time and E. coli rates will be displayed on wards, in the same way that MRSA and C. difficile are currently.
The Department of Health has also pledged to improve training and information sharing, so NHS staff can learn from the best in cutting infection rates.
Meanwhile, Dr Ruth May, executive director of nursing at NHS Improvement and deputy chief nursing officer for England, has been appointed as a new national infection and prevention lead.
In addition, the plans include more money on offer for hospitals making the most progress in reducing infection rates, with a new £45m quality premium.
The Care Quality Commission has also been asked to focus its inspections on infection prevention based on E. coli rates in hospitals and in the community, and take action against poor performers.
Source: Neil O’Connor
Mr Hunt said: “Taken together, these measures are intended to achieve a dramatic reduction in hospital infections, reducing enormous human pain and suffering in the process.
“They will make us better at knowing when to use antibiotics and better at knowing when not to use them,” he said. “They will save doctors and nurses time, and save the NHS money.
“But most of all they will be another vital step in making NHS care something we can all be proud of as the safest and highest quality anywhere on the planet,” said the health secretary.
Mr Hunt added that the NHS could “rightly be proud” that it had cut the number of MRSA cases by 57% and C. difficile by 45% over the last six years, noting that “every avoidable infection also has a financial cost”.
Dr Ruth May said: “This is a clear plan to achieve real change across the NHS focusing on a combination of strict oversight from the CQC and the collection, publication and intelligent use of data, which will ensure organisations improve infection control and help us to make sure poor performers get the support they need to improve quickly.”
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Alongside the plan to reduce E. coli rates, an additional £60m will be allocated to the Getting It Right First Time programme, first pioneered by Professor Tim Briggs in orthopaedics.
The programme will now be expanded to another 18 surgical specialties, building on the initial investment of £2.5m.
It seeks to improve patient experience by replicating the work of the best clinicians across the health service, including cutting infection rates resulting from surgery.
The expansion of the programme will focus on infection control and aims to save the NHS £1.5bn each year.