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Government targets impact on HCAIs

Doctors claim attempts to reduce healthcare associated infections are being undermined by government targets

Doctors claim attempts to reduce healthcare associated infections (HCAIs) are being undermined by government targets.

A report by the British Medical Association(BMA) says infection control practices have been slighted by overcrowding and understaffing in NHS policies. It also claims that there has been an over-reliance in England on short-term solutions such as deep cleaning, dress code policies and alcohol hand gels.

The rates of HCAIs have increased in recent years. This is in part due to advances in medical technology meaning more seriously ill patients who are vulnerable to infection are being treated than before. This has been compounded by rising rates of drug resistance among infection-causing bugs.

The Department of Health has estimated that around 30 per cent of HCAIs are preventable, and has introduced a range of 'solutions' to prevent them. Measures such as deep cleaning have helped reduce the rate of MRSA-related infections, but the BMA now claims that policies promoting higher patient throughput are undermining these preventative measures.

Many services are now operating close to full capacity leading to overcrowding, understaffing, higher bed occupancy and increased movement of patients between hospital wards. These factors have made it difficult to implement measures such as hand washing and screening of at-risk patients.

The report warns that the current strategies are too short term and there is little evidence to prove their effectiveness. It argues that more research and an effective long-term strategy should be a priority. 

9th June 2009

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