Extra Specialist Staff To Tackle Hospital Infections

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Every hospital trust in England will be able to recruit two infection control nurses, two isolation nurses and an antimicrobial pharmacist with millions of pounds of extra investment for infection control in the NHS, Health Secretary Alan Johnson announced today.

New stringent requirements outlined today in the Government's strategy to tackle healthcare associated infections (HCAIs) also mean that NHS Foundation Trust applications will not be supported by the Secretary of State unless trusts are consistently hitting local targets on both MRSA and C. difficile.

'Clean, safe care' draws together current HCAI initiatives and details new areas where the NHS should invest the extra funding of ?270 million per year by 2010/11 to support infection control and cleanliness in the NHS.

This funding will allow local organisations to invest up to ?45m on additional specialist staff, who play a crucial role in cleanliness and infection prevention & control.

Alan Johnson said: "We have gone from what has been described by the HPA as 'a seemingly unstoppable rise in MRSA bloodstream infections throughout the 1990s' to a 10% fall in cases of MRSA, thanks to the hard work and dedication of NHS staff, but we know that there is still more to be done.

"The investment of an extra ?270 million and this strategy will help the NHS to continue the good work going forward. Patients have my assurance that the Government will not take its foot off the pedal and will continue to do all we can to tackle infection."

From February 2008, a new nationwide campaign will be launched to remind the public, GPs and other doctors that using antibiotics is not effective on many common ailments. The campaign will also highlight that inappropriate use of antibiotics can increase the emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains of infections and that prudent prescribing is therefore required.

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Alan Johnson continued: "Healthcare associated infections are everyone's responsibility from NHS cleaning and care staff to me as Secretary of State - and I take that responsibility seriously.

"The past 60 years have seen great advances in healthcare and medicine. For example, the use of antibiotics have saved countless lives, but antibiotics do not work on most coughs, colds and sore throats and their unnecessary use can leave the body susceptible to gut infections like Clostridium difficile. The new pharmacists that trusts will be able to recruit will be key to ensuring proper antibiotic prescribing on wards."

As well as recently announced initiatives including a new 'Bare Below the Elbows' dress code and every hospital to have undergone a deep clean by March 2008, the Strategy outlines further areas that the Department is leading on to support the NHS in the fight against HCAIs. These include:

Hospitals will receive more money earmarked to tackle infection - The national tariff uplift includes a specific element to tackle infection, meaning that trusts have additional resources at their disposal Additional fines for trusts not improving infection rates - as set out in December's Operating Framework for 2008/09, the new national contract will allow PCTs to fine Trusts that are not hitting local targets on Clostridium difficile improvement. This is over and above the fines that the new Care Quality Commission will be able to place on Trusts that are in breach of the hygiene code.

Promoting innovations - a range of programmes designed to accelerate the development and uptake of new technologies

Guidance on HR procedures to be developed in conjunction with Trade Unions - including the importance of induction and training on infection prevention and control for staff

A cleaning summit held by the NHS Chief Executive - focussing on cleaners as part of the solution to infections and cleanliness and not part of the problem

Chief Nursing Officer Christine Beasley said: "Healthcare associated infections and cleanliness in hospitals are often linked, and rightly so. We know that patients do not want to receive care in a dirty hospital. A clean environment is extremely important its own right, as well being the best platform from which to tackle HCAIs.

"Preventing infections requires a range of measures, from prudent antibiotic prescribing to implementing best practice in chronic wound management and only a comprehensive approach will succeed in driving down numbers."

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