Parliamentary committee report on management and control of hospital acquired infections

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The Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons published their report on the management and control of hospital acquired infection in NHS acute hospitals in England on 23 November. The report was critical of the health service, especially over the lack of data on the extent of hospital acquired infection and the costs involved. It quotes figures suggesting that there are at least 100 000 cases of hospital acquired infection in England each year, causing around 5 000 deaths and costing as much as £1 billion a year, with potentially avoidable costs of £150 million.The report observed that as well as endangering patients' lives, hospital acquired infections are a major drain on NHS resources. The committee felt that the health service is unlikely to have the information needed to accurately assess the extent of the problem for three to four years and that without robust, up to date, data it was difficult to see how the Department of Health, the NHS Executive, health authorities and NHS Trusts can target activity and resources to best effect. It considered effective information essential for good management and effective health care, and central to NHS modernisation.The report concluded that major changes are needed at all levels of the NHS if hospital acquired infections are to be reduced. Leadership and accountability, through the new controls assurance process will be important, as will education and training, and monitoring of performance and progress. New investments in surveillance were recognised by the report, which argued that participation in surveillance should be mandatory. The report recognises that the NHS Executive has launched an array of initiatives with this in mind, but observes that it will take time for results to become apparent, and the committee was not convinced that the Executive had given the initiatives sufficient priority when allocating resources.