War on Super Bugs
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced major plans to drastically reduce infections in the NHS in an urgent bid to save lives and improve patient safety. He addressed a day-long infection control summit in London hosted by the Royal College of Nursing, convening leading experts in the field and announcing Government plans to halve the number of gram-negative bloodstream infections by 2020.
E.coli infections – which represent 70 per cent of what are called gram-negative infections – killed more than 5,500 NHS patients last year and are set to cost the NHS £2.3bn by 2018.
The new plan is the first step in the Government’s pledge to tackle antimicrobial resistance, following stark warnings from the UN and Chief Medical Officer about the grave risk to patient safety. The Government’s plans include:
- A share of a new £45 million ‘quality premium’ in 2017/18 for NHS organisations that make progress in reducing infection rates;
- The independent CQC inspection regime focusing on infection prevention based on new data on e-coli rates in hospitals and in the community;
- NHS will publish staff hand hygiene indicators for the first time;
- E. coli rates displayed on wards, visible to patients and visitors in exactly the same way that MRSA and C. difficule are currently;
- E. coli rates broken down by local area so the CQC can take action against poor performers;
- New data published enabling patients to see where antibiotics are prescribed incorrectly;
- Improved training and information sharing so NHS staff can learn from the best in cutting infection rates;
- The appointment of new national infection lead, Dr Ruth May;
- £60 million to fund the roll out of Getting It Right First Time programme to eighteen further surgical and medical specialties to improve clinical quality and efficiency and cut post-surgery infection rates – some of which cost the NHS an average of £100,000 each to put right.
Alongside the plan to reduce E. coli rates, Mr Hunt is also allocating an additional £60 million to roll out the Getting It Right First Time programme, first pioneered by Professor Tim Briggs in orthopaedics, to another eighteen surgical specialties. Prof Briggs is a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon and former Medical Director at the RNOH. The initial pilot investment of £2.5 million is being built on, and the programme seeks to improve patient experience by ensuring the work of the best and most successful clinicians is replicated across the health service, including cutting infection rates resulting from surgery.
Rolling out the Getting It Right First Time programme will see a big focus on infection control - transforming the lives of hundreds of thousands of patients every year and saving the NHS £1.5 billion each year.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said:
"Taken together, these measures are intended to achieve a dramatic reduction in hospital infections, reducing enormous human pain and suffering in the process. They will make us better at knowing when to use antibiotics and better at knowing when not to use them. They will save doctors and nurses time, and save the NHS money. But most of all they will be another vital step in making NHS care something we can all be proud of as the safest and highest quality anywhere on the planet."
The aim of these plans is to boost hand washing amongst NHS staff and improve how people with conditions like urinary tract infections are cared for. UTIs are treated with insertion devices like catheters which can often lead to further infections like E. coli.
Targeting preventable infections like E. coli, which has increased by a fifth in the last five years, will make hospitals, surgeries and care homes saf2er for patients and reduce the need for antibiotics, therefore reducing the opportunity for bugs to develop a resistance to them.
A third of E. coli infections are now resistant to antibiotics and those who are infected with a resistant strain are twice as likely to die as those who pick up a non-resistant strain.
GIRFT Chair and National Director for Clinical Quality and Efficiency Professor Tim Briggs said:
“Following the success of Getting it Right First Time’s orthopaedic pilot which has already seen surgeons changing practice to improve quality and reduce unwanted variation, I now want all clinical teams, both medical and surgical to be equipped with information for their areas and learn how they too can make the changes in their practices to improve patient care and outcomes. We have been able to demonstrate that improved quality has translated into savings of over £50million in orthopaedics to date.
“Rolling the programme out to 29 areas, to be led by some of the nation’s most well-regarded surgeons and physicians, is our opportunity to deliver a real difference to hundreds of thousands of patients and the NHS. GIRFT will enable less to be spent on unnecessary treatment, patients will spend less time in hospital and clinicians will be freed up to provide more care – all of this equal to £1.5bn of health service costs each year.”
Dr Ruth May, national infection and prevention lead, said:
“This is a clear plan to achieve real change across the NHS focusing on a combination of strict oversight from the CQC and the collection, publication and intelligent use of data which will force organisations to improve infection control and enable us to take action against poor performers.”