The steps to be taken to minimise the risk of patients getting infections during the course of care or treatment are an essential part of any care. Healthcare staff are also legally obliged to take reasonable precautions to protect themselves, other staff and anyone else who may be at risk in their workplace (Health and Safety at Work etc Act).
The code of practice for the prevention and control of infections and related guidance describes the standard precautions that must be taken with all patients at all times regardless of their known infection status. This is necessary because patients can be colonised or infected with micro-organisms that may pose a particular risk to others, or because they are particularly vulnerable to infection themselves.
The guidance is known as the Hygiene Code, and sets out healthcare providers' minimum requirements to provide a safe, clean environment for the treatment of patients.
Healthcare providers need to comply with the Hygiene Code to meet the Care Quality Commission registration requirements, and the systems that are in place to manage the prevention and control of infections will be assessed by the Care Quality Commission.
The Department of Health have recently updated the code of practice for the prevention and control of infections and are currently considering responses to the consultation that took place from January to March 2015.
The revised code of practice will need to:
- follow new registration requirements which come into force in April 2015
- give more prominence to the issue of antimicrobial resistance as part of the UK Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy and
- reflect changes to the way the NHS is organised
The consultation documents are available on the Department of Health website