Rolling the Dice: Could IPC be a victim of its own success?

Posted Tuesday October 16, 2012 by Patients Association

A new report published today by The Patients Association is calling for a renewed focus on infection prevention and control services (IPS) across the NHS.

The survey of NHS staff found that almost all felt improvements in safety and outcomes had been delivered in recent years as a result of the high profile rise in infections such as MRSA but that more needs to be done to address new risks.

Over three quarters of respondents (77%) see financial pressures as posing the biggest threat to further improvements and over one third (34%) identified new infections or antimicrobial resistance as a major challenge for the future.

Almost 90% of respondents reported that compared to a year ago, the capacity of IPC teams to meet their organisations IPC needs has either remained constant or decreased, with almost half (45%) reporting a reduced capacity.

The report, produced in partnership with the Royal College of Nursing and the Infection Prevention Society, is being published to coincide with International Infection Prevention Week which runs from 14th October to 20th October.

The report urges the Department of Health to renew its focus on infection control through four key calls to action:

– A new national conversation on improving IPC to ensure it remains a key priority following the implementation of the Health and Social Care Act from April 2014.

– Introduce an agreed framework to enable comparison, and ensure the NHSCB, alongside the Department of Health and Government; work together to ensure that there is appropriate and sustainable strategic leadership on issues of national performance across all sectors.

– Broaden the aims of IPC to deliver action beyond MRSA and C-difficile through targets on other infections such as sepsis.

– Promote a stricter emphasis on IPC within the social care system, so that monitoring matches that which takes place in the acute and secondary sector.

Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of The Patients Association, who is attending the launch of the report, said

ldquo;In recent times infection prevention and control has slipped off the agendas of mainstream media and politicians alike. Mandatory surveillance and strong action on lsquo;superbugs’ such as MRSA and C-Difficile have led to real falls in infection rates. This report lays a marker down for the months ahead. As the health system experiences fundamental change patient safety and the management of IPC must be seen by Government and Trusts as a key priority.rdquo;

Julie Storr, Vice-President of the Infection Prevention Society, said

“This survey shows that infection prevention and control practitioners recognise the positive impact that recent actions of healthcare workers and governments has had in tackling healthcare infection. However the report expresses the concerns of colleagues over the impact of restructuring on commissioning of infection prevention and control services. Together with the RCN, IPS is concerned at the potential impact this restructuring might have and we seek assurance that robust systems for commissioning will be in place to mitigate any risks to patients. We also welcome current moves to broaden the focus beyond single organisms such as MRSA and C diff and look forward to influencing future initiatives as part of a broader stakeholder engagement exercise.”

Dr. Peter Carter, Chair and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said

ldquo;This comes at a time when NHS restructuring may put infection prevention at risk despite the positive work of nurses to consistently lower infection rates in wards.

ldquo;Those working in infection prevention recognize the positive impact of healthcare workers and the Government to tackle healthcare associated infections and we welcome current moves to broaden the focus of infection reduction beyond MRSA and C. difficile, but the emphasis of this should be in a structured way and with the engagement of all stakeholders.

We are concerned that recent improvements may be put at risk by NHS restructuring and we will continue to work to make sure infection control remains a high priority for everyone in the health service.rdquo;

Dr. Ron Daniels, Chair of the UK Sepsis Trust and CEO of the Global Sepsis Alliance, said

‘The UK Sepsis Trust fully supports this call to action.

Existing Department of Health priorities have driven public opinion to believe that these specific organisms are almost exclusively responsible for harm caused by healthcare-associated infection. Such beliefs, and their associated targets, are to the detriment of the much larger group of patients suffering infections due to a wide range of organisms arising from invasive devices, surgical procedures, or inadequate infection prevention strategies.

These strategies, and the metrics which underpin them, must come to reflect the fact that sources and routes of transmission of infection, and adequate timely response to the complications of infection (including sepsis), are more important than the organisms responsible.rdquo;


– The evidence compiled for this report comes from a survey developed in partnership with the RCN and IPS and sent via email members (excluding coporate) on the 9th April followed by the RCN infection control network on the 11th May 2012. The survey closed on 27th July 2012.

– International Infection Prevention Week runs from 14th October to 20th October ndash; more information can be found here –

– The Patients Association is a campaigning charity, listening to patients and speaking up for change. It has been working for nearly 50 years to make sure that the patient voice is heard and listened to by policy makers.

– For further information please contact the Press Office at the Patients Association on 02084239111

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Author: The Patients Association