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14th November 2014

Infection control courses and the importance of training

Human head and science iconsEmployers have a duty of care to their healthcare workers and need to provide suitable and sufficient instruction, information and training. This is to ensure that the workforce are competent to carry out the activities of their role. The employer also has to ensure that healthcare workers remain competent by providing refresher training at appropriate intervals. Prevention of infections is the common primary aim of healthcare workers, regardless of which service they work in. Healthcare workers need an understanding of how infections occur, how different micro-organisms spread, and the role they play in preventing the transmission of pathogenic microorganisms. In addition, all healthcare workers need to be aware of the national regulatory or statutory requirements in order to meet the expected standards, demonstrating to service users that they are continually working towards ensuring that high standards of care are delivered.


Section 12 2(c) and 2(h) of The Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014 covers the safe care and treatment of service users:

12. (1) Care and treatment must be provided in a safe way for service users.

(2) Without limiting paragraph (1), the things which a registered person must do to comply with that paragraph include —

(c) ensuring that persons providing care or treatment to service users have the qualifications, competence, skills and experience to do so safely;
(h) assessing the risk of, and preventing, detecting and controlling the spread of, infections, including those that are health care associated;

2(c) sets out the importance that those persons providing care must be competent and have the relevant training to complete their work activities safely, without causing harm to service users. Training must be appropriate to the healthcare work undertaken. A cleaner would have different infection control training to that of a nurse.


2(h) sets out the requirement for risk assessment of healthcare associated infections.

Completing a risk assessment can be based on the principles of the HSE 5 step process which is:

  1. identifying what can harm people
  2. identifying who might be harmed and how
  3. evaluating the risks and deciding on the appropriate controls, taking into account the controls already in place
  4. recording the risk assessment
  5. reviewing and updating your assessment

The birth of infection control training

The importance of infection control first became known in the mid-1800s, when studies by Ignaz Semmelweis in Vienna, Austria, and Oliver Wendell Holmes in Boston, USA, established that hospital-acquired diseases were transmitted via the hands of healthcare workers. Their initial findings and ideas of this association were enhanced by the work, only years after their deaths, of Louis Pasteur who confirmed the germ theory, and by that of Joseph Lister who practiced and operated using hygienic methods. Training had begun in a practical sense. With time research and development in different areas resulted in findings that were added to training courses. Relevant instruction, information and training in infection control prevention and management slowly became part of the training received. New content on infection control courses was influenced by experts at a global level who worked in research and development in this particular area. The change in the speed of communication via the web has enhanced the type and level of training available.

Different courses

A healthcare worker now has the choice of high-level studying for a PhD, MSc or a BSc in infection control, or can complete a virtual e-learning course that takes no more than an hour. The different levels of courses are designed for different reasons. The person who completes the PhD may want to work in infection control, whereas someone who completes a one or two hour session may just need to raise their awareness of infection control and apply the principles in the work that they undertake. Infection control is part of the work that all healthcare workers undertake, and it is, therefore, advisable that they attend the most appropriate infection control training for it.

Content of a course

A PhD, MSc or BSc study programme will cover different topics in varying degrees of depth, with a large part of the study being a research project. The content of an infection control short course, designed to raise the awareness of a healthcare worker, will generally cover the following areas:

  • Understanding basic microbiology and how micro-organisms are spread
  • Understanding regulations, policy and practice that are relevant to infection control
  • How infection is caused and how it can spread
  • The importance of understanding Healthcare Associated Infections (HCAI)
  • Understanding standard infection control precautions
  • The importance of correct hand hygiene technique
  • Maintaining personal hygiene at work
  • Maintaining a clean environment
  • Understanding the decontamination process
  • Understanding the sterilisation process
  • Handling different types of laundry
  • Roles and responsibilities in infection control
  • The importance of assessing infection control hazards and writing risk assessments
  • Principles of infection control, prevention and management
  • Effective waste and laundry management
  • Sharps management
  • Understanding the use of Personal Protective Equipment
  • Knowledge of MRSA, Clostridium difficile and Norovirus, and understanding their impact in healthcare
  • Knowledge of the necessary precautions in preventing and controling Health Care Associated Infections (HCAI)
  • Containment of an outbreak

There are no prescribed training courses that different healthcare s providers must ensure their workers attend. Instead it is decision of the individual service to determine the most appropriate instruction, information and training for each healthcare worker.

When trying to decide which course is appropriate for its healthcare workers, a service provider must consider:

  • The relevance of the course - is the course relevant to the role of the individual?
  • The suitability of the course - will it enhance their skills and knowledge?
  • The content of the course - will it provide the right information for the work being undertaken?

QCS Infection Control Policy

QCS provides comprehensive guidance to meet your organisational needs. The infection control policies contain appropriate instruction and information for the healthcare workers in your service.


Sally Beck RGN, BSc (Hons), MSc, CMIOSH – QCS Expert Infection Control Contributor



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