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NICE: Reducing infections across the NHS

Simple guidance on reducing infection rates in primary, community and secondary care has been released for doctors and nurses. 

Around 300,000 people get an infection while being cared for within the NHS in England each  year. These 'healthcare associated infections' include pneumonia and infections of the lower respiratory tract (22.8%), urinary tract infections (17.2%) and surgical site infections (15.7%)i.

One in 16 people being treated on the NHS picks up an infection. 

As a result, more NHS resources are consumed and the affected patients are at increased risk, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has said. 

Infections can occur in otherwise healthy people, especially if invasive procedures or devices like urinary catheters or vascular access devicesiii are used. These infections can also be passed on to healthcare workers, family members and other carers.

NICE hopes that when delivered collectively, the statements should improve the effectiveness, quality, safety and experience of care that people get.

The quality standard contains six statements, including:

 - People are prescribed antibiotics in accordance with local antibiotic formularies - as part of a system to stem resistance of infections to antibiotics (this is known as antimicrobial stewardship)iv.

 - Patients are looked after by healthcare workers who always clean their hands thoroughly, both immediately before and immediately after contact or care.

 - Healthcare workers minimise the risk of infection to people who need a urinary catheter or a vascular access device by following procedures to make sure they are inserted, looked after and removed correctly and safely.

These procedures include cleaning hands, assessing the need for a catheter, using a lubricant when inserting a catheter, using sterile procedures when inserting a vascular access device, emptying the catheter drainage bag when necessary, and removing catheters and vascular access devices as soon as they are no longer needed.

Professor Leng said: “Although there have been major improvements within the NHS in infection control, particularly in relation to Clostridium difficile and MRSA bloodstream infections in the last few years, healthcare associated infections are still a very real threat to patients, their families and carers and staff. 

"This quality standard gives primary, community and secondary care services the most up-to-date advice on the best ways to minimise the risks of infections.”