INFECTION control nurses in Wales are responsible for as many as 475 beds each because of a lack of resources, watchdogs revealed last week.
Reports from the Wales Audit Office and Healthcare Inspectorate Wales both raised concerns that infection control teams were currently too small and that specialist nurses were stretched because of a lack of administrative support.
The WAO report looked at the ratio of infection control nurses to bed numbers. It found the number of beds covered by each infection control nurse ranged from 246 to 475, with an average of 332.
Standards developed in the US suggest there should be one nurse for between 100 and 250 occupied beds.
The report also stated all of teams surveyed revealed they were in need of extra resources to tackle HCAIs.
The inspectorate also found infection control teams in Wales were being forced to carry out non-specialist tasks because of a lack of adequate administrative support.
‘A review of the numbers of specialist infection control staff in all NHS trusts and independent healthcare providers is needed,’ it stated.
‘This should also address the finding from this review of a general lack of administrative support for NHS infection control teams that result in the inappropriate use of specialist staff to undertake non-specialist activities,’ the report said
RCN Wales director Tina Donnelly said ministers had commissioned work to look at the issue. She also highlighted the hard work of infection control nurses.
‘In Wales we have the lowest HCAI rates in the UK, so those nurses are working very, very hard,’ she said. ‘Imagine how much more successful we’d be with more of them.’
Police are still reviewing the situation at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust in Kent, recently the subject of a damning Healthcare Commission report that cited nurse shortages as a key factor leading to an infection control breakdown.