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Waiting-time target puts infection control at risk

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The government’s four-hour waiting time target for A&E patients in England may compromise infection control targets, the RCN has warned.

Mike Hayward, college professional nurse adviser for emergency and acute care, said nurses had told the RCN they feared pressure to meet the A&E target was negatively affecting proper cleaning and infection control.

Representatives from the RCN were due to meet with the Department of Health’s A&E team last week to discuss the concerns, he told NT.

‘Anecdotally we are hearing from members that trusts cannot get patients through A&E as quickly as they need to and make sure they are deep cleaning. With the best will in the world they can’t do it, because of the pressure to hit the target – proper cleaning is not happening,’ Mr Hayward said.

‘Nurses are telling us that with so much pressure put on them moving patients from A to B, to C to D, wards are being cleaned but not as thoroughly as they would want them to be,’ he added.

Mr Hayward said the college was now trying to gather evidence on whether the target was helping to contribute to an increase in healthcare-associated infections.

While NHS trusts currently have to ensure that 98% of patients are dealt with within four hours of arriving in A&E, the RCN would like to see this reduced to 95%.

Results of a college survey published last month showed that nine out of ten nurses felt they were unduly pressured to meet the four-hour waiting time target (NT News, 6 May, p6).

‘It is very easy for civil servants to say that 98% is important but how can quality be maintained when meeting it is crucifying nursing staff,’ added Mr Hayward.

Latest Department of Health figures, published last week, showed that the NHS had just failed overall to meet the target for 2007–2008, with 97.9% of A&E patients seen within four hours (NT News, 20 May, p2).

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