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Supporting infection prevention and control safety during COVID-19

We managed a programme of implementing infection prevention and control safety principles to reduce infection rates and provide better access to services during the pandemic.

Background

During the pandemic, there was an increased national focus on the effective application of infection prevention and control (IPC) principles and practice and how this relates to patient and staff safety and outcomes.

A national IPC safety support programme was established for providers of NHS services after the increase in healthcare needs associated with COVID-19 infections. Targeted safety support for organisations in other specialty areas had already had a positive impact.

A core project team was created to design and implement the programme. Midlands and Lancashire Commissioning Support Unit (MLCSU) managed the programme delivery, working with key leads from NHS England and Improvement’s Nursing and Improvement Directorates and regional IPC, quality and clinical colleagues.

The programme’s focus was framed around the IPC code of practice, and so long-term IPC benefits are expected.

Action

  • The programme ensured effective change management processes were in place to document changes as agreed with stakeholders.
  • The programme infrastructure and project management tools were developed at pace.
  • To track benefits of the programme, we developed processes for identifying and measuring benefits realisation.
  • We recorded risk by maintaining risk registers and lessons learnt logs.
  • We created and maintained financial reporting templates.
  • Weekly highlight reports provided assurance to the regional team.
  • Output reports were created to capture results.

Impact

For patients:

  • Reduced rates of COVID-19 infections and other hospital-acquired infections
  • Safer access to services through the establishment of clear pathways during the pandemic
  • Increased confidence for patients and staff in trusts’ ability to effectively manage infection outbreaks.

For staff:

  • Improved IPC systems, management, processes and practices, minimising the spread of infection, promoting staff safety, reducing anxiety and increasing confidence
  • Reduced sickness absence from hospital-acquired COVID-19 infections
  • Greater awareness and understanding of evidence-based IPC practices leading to better compliance and safety.

For trusts:

  • Clear oversight by trust boards of IPC issues and understanding of their impact on services and patient outcomes
  • Support for safety culture and quality improvement
  • Improved performance including a reduction in infections contracted in healthcare settings. This minimised loss of bed days and service capacity due to patients requiring an extended length of stay to receive treatment.

“[MLCSU  colleagues were] experienced, keen to learn about the subject matter and the internal workings of the organisation, and had forward thinking ideas.”

Annemarie Vicary, Programme Director, NHS England and Improvement