The global fight against infections

3rd of June 2013 Article by Mike Sullivan
The global fight against infections

Mike Sullivan, managing director of hand hygiene products supplier GOJO Industries - Europe is the latest cleaning industry expert to write a blog for the ECJ website. He has worked closely with the UK National Health Service (NHS), the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Société Française d'Hygiène Hospitalière, the Infection Prevention Society, the Association for Prevention in Infection Control, and Private Organisations for Patient Safety (POPS).

Healthcare associated infections (HAIs) know no geographical barriers and do not discriminate in terms of age, race or gender. Their effects can be wide-ranging, and highly significant for everyone touched by them.

For individuals, there is the additional distress and discomfort caused by acquiring infections - not to mention their sometimes fatal outcomes; while for hospitals there are the extra costs and resources needed to deal with outbreaks and their aftermath, not forgetting the unwelcome glare of negative publicity from online, print and broadcast media.

Such a global threat needs a global response and I'm glad to say that a community of professionals, from countries right across the world, is established and thriving. This band of like-minded individuals have one common aim - to reduced HAIs and improve patient safety for all, and many of them will be attending the second International Conference on Prevention and Infection Control (ICPIC), which takes place in Geneva from June 25-28.

ICPIC provides a unique forum for professionals involved in the prevention of HAIs and the control of antimicrobial resistance to share their knowledge and expertise with colleagues. It is a truly global event, with 1,200 people from 84 countries participating in the first ICPIC, which was held in 2011.

Headed by Professor Didier Pittet, renowned for his work with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and awarded the CBE in 2007 for his services related to the prevention of HAIs in the UK, the conference programme provides a comprehensive snapshot of the most important issues facing the healthcare sector today.

Special lectures cover topics such as SARS, the new coronavirus and H7N9; MRSA; and a round table symposium will discuss practical aspects of infection and prevention control, emphasising the fact that ‘it's not all about money - just common sense!'

This viewpoint interests me greatly, as I am sure many people would agree with its simple premise. A clean, sanitised environment, staffed by healthcare workers who practise good hand hygiene is bound to help reduce the risk of HAIs.

The European cleaning industry can play a significant role in helping to achieve this practical ambition, by delivering the highest standards of cleaning and maintenance services to hospitals and other healthcare settings, and providing hand hygiene formulations and systems that are both effective and pleasant to use - helping to improve compliance rates and patient care.

Hand hygiene might sound like a simple idea, but it merits its own dedicated sessions at ICPIC 2013, acknowledging its importance in preventing the spread of infections. One of the sessions will evaluate the economics of the National Hand Hygiene Initiative implemented in Australia; another will look at new ways to monitor performance; while another will deal with hand hygiene campaign fatigue.

These three sessions highlight some of the most crucial themes in the hand hygiene sector today. With increasing pressure on healthcare budgets, how do hospitals and other service providers ensure that the systems and products they are procuring constitute the most effective use of their funds?

Evaluating performance and, just as importantly, compliance, is also a hot topic at the moment. Various technological options are starting to emerge - aimed at helping hospitals to measure how healthcare workers are complying with hand hygiene regulations. In terms of hand hygiene ‘fatigue', good hand hygiene's impact on patient outcomes is far too important to let slip. If people are getting tired of being reminded to clean their hands, then we need to develop better ways of communicating to ensure that this issue remains front of mind to all front line healthcare workers.

This year's event promises to be another enlightening and inspiring gathering of some of the best minds in the infection prevention world. I am looking forward to hearing the ideas, opinions and solutions that will be shared in Geneva, and seeing how they will influence the healthcare sector in years to come.

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