International Infection Prevention Week

This week is International Infection Prevention Week (IIPW) it’s an opportunity to stop and think about what it means to us here and how we can best fit it into the ever increasing expectations on what we can fit into our busy lives and work places.

I have yet to meet anyone that disputes that preventing infection is central to the provision of safe care here in the UK. Here in the UK we are lucky – we have a publically funded and overall excellent health service. Whilst we still have much to achieve in our ambition to have the safest health system in the world, we have started this journey and have available to us people and organisations that are committed to achieving this. So preventing infection, you might assume, is top of the list when it comes to patient safety – well actually not necessarily so.

The history of infection control reveals highs and lows for awareness and government commitment, complete with actions and money to address this. Our journey in patient safety has revealed a vast number of other harms that can befall patients, all equally important to patients, so how and why should the prevention of infection retain its position as the key priority? It’s a serious issue and a wicked problem.

Simply put, infection costs – it costs lives, money and antibiotics to resolve. And now more than ever, reliance on antibiotics to prevent or cure infections is threatened due to increasing spread of antibiotic resistance across the globe. In hospitals and care settings the presence of infection is often defined as an overall indicator of the quality of care provided, by individuals, teams or organisations. At its heart it reflects the level of attention and detail ‘we’ (individuals and organisations) pay to preventing it – be that hand hygiene, cleaning, provision of sterile equipment or use of devices such as urinary catheters. That it is challenging is openly acknowledged, it’s not about blame – it’s about how we ensure the system works to keep it at the centre of our healthcare worlds – and we are all responsible for that.

So how does IIPW help? IIPW acts as a virtual global community promoting and prompting people everywhere to stop and think about the importance of infection and how we can help prevent it. On the IIPW website there are a number of resources that can be downloaded as well as ideas for games, puzzles and other activities for all ages to participate. IIPW is not just for adults working in hospitals – children and young people can join in, and its messages are relevant to all health and care settings.

IIPW also acts as an opportunity to have conversations and create ideas on how we can do more differently and to blend into, not add to our workloads. Social media of course will play a part and will connect us as a global community – look out for various Twitter chats, by following #IIPW, and Facebook posts. You can take part in the APIC Twitter chat on Tuesday, 17 October at 6pm by following #IIPWChat. Social media can be used to share any activities you are doing and to learn from others, but most of all use it to have fun with others – it may be a serious but messages and actions are always received better when delivered in a fun way!

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