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One fifth of nurses receive no infection control feedback

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Nearly a fifth of nurses are still not receiving formal feedback on their infection control practice, according to figures gathered by the National Audit Office.

The watchdog published a report on infection control in the NHS last week, which welcomed the NHS hitting its MRSA reduction target last year but said ‘compliance with good practice is still not universal’ across trusts.  

According to a staff survey that accompanied the report, 18% of nurses had received no appraisal on their infection control practice and 16% said management provided no time, venue or resources to reflect on previous infection control incidents.

Doctors were even less likely to have infection control appraisals, with 46% reporting that they had not received one. Findings were based on a survey of 1,551 nurses and 1,050 doctors carried out between October and December 2008.

Karen Taylor, director of health value for money studies at the National Audit Office, said: ‘In terms of performance management, all nurses should have infection and prevention monitored against good infection prevention practice.’

Although the introduction of revalidation for nurses is still several years away, Ms Taylor said infection control should be included in these future fitness to practise checks. ‘Infection control should be part of the revalidation process,’ she said.

In his response to the NAO report, new health secretary Andy Burnham confirmed that the government was planning to consult on new minimum standards for controlling MRSA, as revealed by Nursing Times last week.

‘I have asked the National Quality Board to help develop a new minimum standard that will ensure all hospitals drive down MRSA bloodstream infections to the levels currently being achieved by the best performers – making the NHS even safer for staff and patients,’ he said.

‘I want this to be fairer – taking into account local differences – based on clear evidence and developed together with NHS staff and stakeholders,’ he added.

However, the NAO report also warned of the rising danger posed by drug-resistant pathogens other than MRSA and Clostridium difficile. Examples cited include Escherichia coli, other Staphylococcus aureus strains, coagulase negative staphylococci, enterococcus, Streptococcus pneumoniae and klebsiella.

According to the Health Protection Agency’s voluntary monitoring scheme, annual E. coli bloodstream infections increased 30% from 13,000 to 17,000 between 2003 and December 2007. Over the same period, cases of klebsiella infection increased by 34% from 3,500 to 4,700.

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