The UK's National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has introduced a series of new quality standards to help healthcare professionals to win the fight against the spread of infections.
Encompassing six statements designed to reduce infection rates, the guidance includes a statement recommending that patients should be looked after by healthcare workers who always clean their hands thoroughly, both immediately before and after contact or care.
It also recommends that antibiotics be prescribed only in accordance with local antibiotic formularies, in order to prevent the development of antibiotic resistance and reduce the risk of new superbugs emerging.
Moreover, healthcare workers have been called upon to minimise the risk of infection to people who need a urinary catheter or a vascular access device by following procedures to make sure they are inserted, looked after and removed safely.
Currently, around 300,000 people get an infection while being cared for within the NHS in England each year, equivalent to one in 16 people treated via the health service.
The most prominent categories of healthcare-associated infections include pneumonia and infections of the lower respiratory tract, which account for 22.8 per cent of cases, followed by urinary tract infections (17.2 per cent) and surgical site infections (15.7 per cent).
Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive and director of health and social care at NICE, said: "Although there have been major improvements within the NHS in infection control, particularly in relation to C. difficile and MRSA bloodstream infections in the last few years, healthcare-associated infections are still a very real threat to patients, their families and carers and staff.
"This quality standard gives primary, community and secondary care services the most up-to-date advice on the best ways to minimise the risks of infections."
It comes as part of wider efforts to improve safety standards within the NHS through better education of staff. A recent Lancet study, highlighted by the Royal College of Nursing, revealed the proportion of nurses in a hospital with a degree-level education is associated with lower mortality rates.
Improved staffing levels can also help to ensure better safety standards, underlining the need for greater investment in recruitment.
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