Infection control is a practiceaimed at preventing or reducing the spread of infectious diseases within thehealthcare environment from hospitals, general practices, health centres andcommunity settings.
It encompasses a range of measures designed to protect patientsand staff from nosocomial infection (Richards, 2017). Nosocomial infection, alsoknown as a hospital-acquired infection (HAI), can be defined as an infection whicha patient does not present at admission but develops whilst hospitalised (Emmerson et al., 1996.) They can affectpatients varyingly, delaying their recovery time and even proving fatal in somecases (Decoster et al., 2012).
It has been reported that in the United Kingdom(UK), 9% of people acquire infection while in hospital with the Department ofHealth reinforcing this by stating that around 100,000 patients contract anosocomial infection every year (Fox& Harvey, 2008). Infection significantly increases the cost to theNational Health Service (NHS), adding to the ever-increasing burden on thesystem (Kelsey, 2000). In additionto this, patients who have developed an infection since admittance arehospitalised for longer periods of time, on average eleven days longer. Thisincreased stay, along with any additional surgery or pharmacotherapy needed,results in the average cost per patient being significantly higher thanpatients who are uninfected. The total sum of this is estimated to be in excessof £1 billion pounds per annum (The Society of Radiographers, 2006). It is, therefore,a key component of delivering safe patient care.
The radiology department withinthe hospital is of no exception, ensuring that both staff and patients are at areduced or prevented risk of infection and disease. This is becomingincreasingly more important within the NHS as infections are becoming far moredifficult to treat than before, with many becoming resistant to antimicrobialagents such as antibiotics like penicillins(Carter, 2009). Perhaps one of the most reported examples of this is therise of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcusaureus (MRSA), the most common cause of nosocomial infection (Wilson, Foreword, & Jenner, 2006). Infact, it is so prevalent that the number of reported cases have doubled overthe last decade (Hamza et al., 2007). Foran infection to occur, the microorganism must encounter the host through severaldifferent pathways.
An indirect route involves inanimate objects, commonly referredto as fomites, such as medical equipment. Or, it may involve a living organism,called a vector, such as a member of the multidisciplinary team (MDT). Thesefomites and, or vectors may then become contaminated with the pathogen and actas a reservoir for transmitting the microorganism to the host. Consequently,the presence of a pathogen may colonise by growing and multiplying within thehost which, in turn, may lead to infection(McCormick, 2000).
It is, therefore, understandable that infection controlprocedures within the NHS are a high priority and should be applied to everydayclinical practice. Following the FrancisReport (2013), clinical governance has become more rigorous, with audits undertakento continuously monitor clinical practice and any deficiencies in relation toset standards of care identified and improved. This is true for infectioncontrol which has received more attention from the Care Quality Commission(CQC) and the clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), whom should be informedimmediately if there are any concerns from the Heath Protection Agency (HPA)that adequate management of healthcare-acquired infections has not beenmet. The report concluded that robustarrangements are needed for sharing concerns relating to infection control withregulators. It states that the collection, analysis and publication of providerdata relating to healthcare-acquired infections should be coordinated with theHPA and the Health and Social Care Information Centre, whilst also stating thatit is completely unacceptable for a patient to contract certain types ofinfection resulting from poor infection control.