Comment

09.04.11

Crackdown on cleanliness and infections

The next steps in the drive to maintain cleanliness in hospitals and tackle healthcare associated infections were confirmed recently by the Department of Health

A new hospital regulator with powers to impose fines and close down entire wards in hospitals that do not meet hygiene requirements will be introduced and hospitals across England will undergo an aggressive programme of intensive deep cleaning. This will result in a more hygienic , brighter , cleaner environment for hospital users and make it easier to maintain a clean hospital in the future.

Trusts already undertake deep cleaning programmes on a ward-by-ward basis but this will be the first time hospitals have been asked to deep clean their entire site restoring surfaces and fabrics as close as possible to their original condition.

The new regulator will have the power to impose fines and additional powers to inspect and issue warnings , as well as halting new admissions or even cancelling a provider’s registration entirely.

Matrons and ward sisters will also be given further powers to report any concerns they have on hygiene direct to the new regulator and will receive whistleblower protection.

The new regulator will have a much stronger focus on safety and quality across all health and adult social care services , in both the NHS and independent sector. It will replace three existing bodies (Healthcare Commission , Commission for Social Care Inspection and the Mental Health Act commission) , building on their existing experience and expertise and simplifying cross-boundary working. This will also help to reduce administrative burdens on patients and frontline services.

The announcement comes in the wake of a series of measures to tackle healthcare associated infections including;

 £50 million extra funding to strategic health authority directors of nursing and doubling the size of improvement teams;

 New guidance on clothing which will mean that hospitals will adopt a new “bare below the elbows” dress code

 Matrons and clinical directors will report quarterly directly to trust boards on infection control and cleanliness

 New clinical guidance to increase the use of isolation for those patients who are infected with MRSA or Clostridium difficile;

 The National Patient Safety Agency will extend its successful cleanyourhands campaign to care settings outside hospitals; and

 A new legal requirement to be placed on all chief executives to report all MRSA bacteraemias and C. difficile infections to the Health Protection Agency , backed by fines for non-compliance. Failure to report will be an offence.

The proposals to create the new regulator will be introduced in the Health & Social Care Bill in the next Parliamentary session and trusts will be expected to begin their deep cleaning programmes as soon as possible.

However , depending on the size of the hospital , a serious deep clean can be a lengthy process and we will give trusts flexibility to properly plan the timing and pace of the deep clean programme to ensure minimum disruption to patients.

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at opinion@nationalhealthexecutive.com

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