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Hospitals: Infectious Diseases

Volume 461: debated on Wednesday 6 June 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans she has for mandatory prevention and control of healthcare-associated infections; and if she will make a statement. (138647)

Not all healthcare associated infections (HCAIs) can be prevented but reducing HCAIs, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) infections is one of four top priorities for the national health service.

“The Health Act 2006: Code of practice for the prevention and control of healthcare associated infections” came into force on 1 October 2006 and already requires NHS bodies to have appropriate management and clinical governance systems in place to deliver effective infection control. Compliance with the code is assessed by the Healthcare Commission (HCC) and the HCC has the power to issue an improvement notice to an NHS body that in its view, is not properly observing the code.

In addition to a national target to halve MRSA bacteraemias (blood stream infections) by April 2008, local targets have been introduced to significantly reduce cases of C. difficile since 1 April 2007. We are planning to consult on amendment regulations on how to apply the provisions of the code to the independent health and adult social care sectors later this year.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what definition her Department uses of healthcare-associated infections; and if she will make a statement. (138652)

No single definition is used for all circumstances but in general healthcare associated infections are infections that are acquired by patients following admission to hospital or as a result of healthcare interventions in other healthcare facilities.

Healthcare workers are also at risk of acquiring some types of infection as a result of caring for patients.

More specific definitions may be used, for example in surveillance systems or in legislation. The definition from the Health Act 2006 is given as follows:

(8) In this section “health care associated infection” means any infection to which an individual may be exposed or made susceptible (or more susceptible) in circumstances where

(a) health care is being, or has been, provided to that or any other individual, and

(b) the risk of exposure to the infection, or of susceptibility (or increased susceptibility) to it, is directly or indirectly attributable to the provision of the health care.