For the first time, the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) is developing specific infection prevention and control standards for community services. Infection prevention and control refers to the measures services put in place to ensure they are providing safe care in a clean environment.
The new standards — now the focus of a six-week public consultation launched today by HIQA — will cover all health and social care services provided in the community, including ambulance, general practitioner (GP) and family doctor services, nursing homes, residential centres for people with a disability, health centres, dental clinics and home care.
Rachel Flynn, HIQA’s Director of Health Information and Standards, said the standards aim to protect people using these services and urged the public and interested parties to review the draft standards and give us their views during the public consultation which will run until 14 March.
The draft standards have been informed by engagement with stakeholders and a review of authoritative national and international standards, guidelines and guidance documents to develop a framework for best practice. The findings from the review highlight the importance of:
- incorporating infection prevention and control principles into the day-to-day delivery of care
- adhering to what are termed standard precautions, such as good hand hygiene
- using effective communication when managing healthcare-associated infections
- having a skilled and trained workforce.
Rachel Flynn commented: “Healthcare-associated infections are acquired by people after they have been in contact with a healthcare service. They can have a huge impact on people, causing upset and anxiety, serious illness, long-term disability and death. As a result of the rapid turnover of patients in acute healthcare settings, complex care is increasingly being delivered in the community, and a number of these infections are no longer confined to hospitals and are increasingly prevalent in community care settings.
“Research shows residents in long-term residential care facilities such as nursing homes are particularly vulnerable to healthcare-associated infections. In addition, antimicrobial resistance, where medicines fail to treat previously manageable infections, presents a serious global threat. The standards aim to help counter that growing threat, as preventing infections from occurring in the first instance is one of the best ways to reduce the need to prescribe antimicrobial medication and prevent antimicrobial resistance.”
The 20 draft standards being published today will provide a framework for using best practice, covering important areas such as:
- communicating well with people who use health or social care services
- involving people in making decisions about their care
- providing care in a clean and safe environment
- prescribing antimicrobial medication in a safe manner
- educating people about how to protect themselves from acquiring infections, for example by giving people practical information about good hand hygiene practices.
Rachel Flynn continued: “The basic principles of infection prevention and control apply regardless of the setting. A significant proportion of healthcare-associated infection is known to be avoidable if measures are taken to identify and address the work practices, equipment and environmental risks that have the potential to cause such harm. Therefore, we have already spoken with people who use and work in services in the community to hear their views on what they believe is important to include in these standards. Now, we want to hear further feedback from people who use these services and all interested parties on how to enable these standards to improve those services and make them safer.”
The deadline for receipt of submissions is 5pm on Wednesday 14 March 2018. You can find more information on international measures to tackle healthcare-associated infections in the community in a HIQA background document now available on the HIQA website.
For further information please contact:
Marty Whelan, Head of Communications and Stakeholder Engagement
01 814 7480 / 086 244 7623 firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to the Editor:
- The Draft national infection prevention and control standards for community services are based on national and international evidence, and were developed with a diverse range of informed and interested parties, including an advisory group.
- At the time of writing, HIQA had conducted 10 focus groups on the draft standards, with 70 people who both use and provide community health and social care services. A number of additional focus groups are planned.
- These draft standards are a revision of the broader 2009 National Standards for the Prevention and Control of Healthcare Associated Infections. HIQA published National Standards for the prevention and control of healthcare-associated infections in acute healthcare services in May 2017.
- When finalised, these standards being published today are designed to apply to all community health and social care services outside the acute hospital setting. The standards, once approved by the Minister for Health, will become National Standards. This places a responsibility on all publicly funded health and social care services in the community to begin implementing the national standards, with a view to adhering to the standards.
- It is envisaged that all other privately provided community services will adopt these national standards, when finalised, to promote improvements in the prevention and control of healthcare-associated infections in their services.
- HIQA has also formally engaged with the Mental Health Commission and it is planned that the Commission will promote the use of the finalised standards within all mental healthcare services and encourage their adoption by mental health service providers.
- The draft national standards do not set out specific clinical practice detail, which is best described in clinical guidelines.