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Catching the bug for infection control

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Introduction

Infection control occupies a pivotal position in the regulatory fabric of today’s health and social care system. Within the CQC’s compliance guidance, Essential Standards of Quality and Safety, infection control is a component of safeguarding and safety, Outcome 8: cleanliness and infection control. It is an essential factor in the objective of providing user centric care. However, creating and maintaining effective policies which capture all the intricacies is a matter of some difficulty.

Whether you are running a GP’s surgery, a dental practice or an adult social care facility, infection control is an area of considerable complexity. Those without the resources or specialist compliance expertise are faced with a time consuming and laborious task of cross referencing source documentation and then creating infection control policy documents for healthcare workers to follow.

Once you have ploughed through the process of gathering and reviewing source documentation and writing your own policies, it may seem like a triumph of the human spirit over red tape! Often though, no matter how thorough you may have been, a nagging doubt may persist,like have I missed anything? And it’s hard to brush it off.

Also feeding in is the increased risk of infection. The rapid turnover rate in acute care is forcing more complex care to be carried out in the community, in primary or adult social care settings. Outbreaks of Novovirus and C. difficile are unpredictable. Such scenarios contrast sharply, however, with the one where reductions in the welfare budget are creating the potential for a deterioration of social conditions. At the very least, the fuel poverty, and long, bitter winters increase the potential for influenza epidemics.

The stakes are high for service providers. Failing a CQC inspection because your policies do not follow best practice may merely be no more than a drop in the bureaucratic ocean, but then again such a failing could seriously compromise the safety of service users or healthcare workers. What are the operational and reputational implications for a health or social care facility linked to infections by pathogens such as MRSA, HIV and hepatitis B?

In this guide we explain how QCS compliance management overcomes the difficulties of creating and maintaining effective infection control policies that remain up to date with the latest guidance.

Effective policy from guidance takes time and effort

The Health and Social Care Act 2008 (updated 2012), the legislative instrument which created The Care Quality Commission, actually relieves the CQC of responsibility for providing guidance on infection control.

Of the 28 Outcomes across 160 pages in the CQC’s Essential Standards of Quality and Safety Guide, there is a significant gap under Outcome 8: Cleanliness and infection control; the guide states that under the Act, the CQC is not required to produce guidance about the prevention or control of healthcare-associated infections. The guide redirects the reader to Code of Practice on the prevention and control of infections and related guidance, which is published by the Department of Health.

For those wishing to design processes and write policies which follow the published guidelines on infection control, it is necessary to study the CQC and the Department of Health guidance.  To maximise the understanding of compliance in general and infection control in particular, many find it necessary to review the key documents given above which together total almost 400 pages.

Once we get in to the detail, it can be seen that infection control practice varies across the sector. The requirements for adult social care service providers differ from primary medical practices, as they do for dental practices.

Contained within the Department of Health Code of Practice there are:

  • A set of 10 compliance criteria
  • Guidance for compliance with each criterion
  • Application tables that show which criteria apply to each regulated activity
  • Examples of interpretation for each care sector
  • Guidance for compliance with each criterion for each care sector

In short, gathering, reviewing and digesting information requires practice managers or registered providers to invest a significant amount of time. Bringing this together to design processes and write policies which translate into effective, pragmatic infection control procedures requires further time, effort and a close attention to detail.

Beyond this, maintaining policies in-line with changes to the published guidelines requires continual monitoring and the need for immediate revision to policies to ensure practice remains in-step with the compliance requirements.

Infection control made easy with QCS compliance management

The QCS compliance management system contains policies and procedures that are created and maintained by experts. Our experts are qualified in different areas and are experienced, hands on practitioners in their fields. This ensures the procedural content is pragmatic, tested and ready for the care environment.

This is an important factor for ensuring the QCS system provides an effective compliance management solution. Policy that is based solely on theoretical consideration does not translate well into practice.

A strategic and practical approach to infection control

To deliver effective infection control the QCS system tackles this compliance area on two levels.

Strategic

The system provides an Infection Control Policy and Procedure which sets out the areas of risk and the strategies which are required to minimise the risks. This strategic level policy is set out referring directly to the guidelines contained in the Department of Health publication. This makes it much easier to audit compliance.

Practical

In addition to the strategic level policy, operational policies are infection control aware. Some procedures may pose a risk of cross contamination, so the system’s procedures are designed to minimise risk. The policy also contains practical procedures for avoiding cross infection. This makes it an ideal staff training tool.

Result

This two-level approach to infection control produces a strong positive response within each care organisation. Staff are fully exposed to compliant infection control procedures. In effect, this makes it virtually impossible for staff to be unaware of correct infection control practice because they are fully exposed to compliant procedures. This is a significant factor in reducing the risk of compliance failure.

With compliant infection control procedures firmly embedded, infection control is positioned as a key area of concern for all staff and combats complacency and the view that it is a management or specialist problem.

Summary

QCS compliance management helps health and social care service providers catch the bug for infection control. It enables compliance regulations to be met as well as driving improved standards of quality and safety. QCS compliance management lets you:

  • Avoid the time consuming need to research and write infection control policies
  • Escape the need to maintain policies and procedures instep with regulation and best practice
  • Eliminate the risks from policies and procedures that are not loophole-free - there’s not only the risk of compliance failure; a major outbreak may be due to inadequate policy
  • Access infection control policies and procedures written and maintained by hands-on professionals
  • Take a strategic and practical approach which facilitates auditing and training
  • Embed awareness and best practice so that compliant behaviour becomes firmly established within your organisation

About QCS

Quality Compliance Systems (QCS) offers a unique approach to CQC Compliance with an online based service specifically tailored to the individual needs of your organisation.

Whether you are an established Care Provider, Dental Practice, GP Surgery or a start-up organisation, our service is provided with the aim of ensuring that all aspects of compliance are being attended to.

Our industry experts continually update existing policies and procedures, whilst introducing new ones in response to the latest changes issued by the Care Quality Commission (England) and the SCSWIS(Scotland).

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Further reading and references

March 2010

Essential Standards of Quality and Safety Guide

The Care Quality Commission

URL: http://www.cqc.org.uk/content/essential-standards-quality-and-safety

December 2010

Code of Practice on the prevention and control of infections and related guidance

Department of Health

URL: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-health-and-social-care-act-2008-code-of-practice-on-the-prevention-and-control-of-infections-and-related-guidance

March 2012

Prevention and control of healthcare-associated infections in primary and community care

NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence)

URL: http://guidance.nice.org.uk/CG139/NICEGuidance/pdf/English

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