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Government targets interfere with battle against superbugs

The war on healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs), or so-called "superbugs", will never be won unless long-term strategies are introduced to radically reduce their prevalence, says a British Medical Association (BMA) report launched today.

Short-term solutions like alcohol gel, dress code and deep cleansing must be supplemented with sustainable evidence-based improvements that will protect more patients in the future, says the report. 

Tackling healthcare-associated infections through effective policy action, a report produced by the BMA's Board of Science, calls for a range of measures to minimise the spread of infection and strong governmental commitment focusing on long-term policies that tackle patient throughput and high bed occupancy.  

Dr Jonathan Fielden, Chairman of the BMA's Consultants' Committee and a consultant in intensive care said: "While we must congratulate NHS staff on their successful efforts to reduce HCAIs it is time to introduce longer-term solutions that are integrated and evidence-based. 

"It's not enough for politicians to announce new initiatives that are just soundbites. Genuine patient safety comes from embedding long-term strategies to tackle HCAIs."

The report says that overcrowding and understaffing in the UK healthcare system adversely impacts on infection control practices, including decreased hand hygiene, increased movement of staff and patients, and worse staff-to-patient ratios.

These problems can only be addressed, according to the report, with strong organisational support that underpins the effective functioning of healthcare teams.