Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt has announced plans to prevent hospital infections by offering financial rewards for hospitals that reduce infection rates and publishing E. coli rates on wards.
The government plans to halve the number of gram-negative bloodstream infections by 2020, Hunt announced at an infection control summit.
E. coli infections – which represent 65% of gram-negative infections – killed more than 5,500 NHS patients last year and are set to cost the NHS £2.3 billion by 2018.
There is a large variation in hospital infection rates, with the worst performers having more than five times the number of cases than the best performing hospitals.
Infection rates can be cut with better hygiene and improved patient care in hospitals, surgeries and care homes, such as ensuring staff, patients and visitors regularly wash their hands, the DH said.
Patients using insertion devices such as catheters, which are often used following surgery, can develop infections like E. coli if they are not inserted properly, left in too long or if they are not properly hydrated and going to the toilet regularly.
Cases of MRSA infections have already been reduced by 57%,and C. difficile by 45%, since 2010.
The government’s plans to reduce infections rates include a £45m quality premium fund to reward hospitals with fewer cases, more CQC inspections focusing on infection prevention, and improving training and information sharing so that staff can learn from each other.
The NHS will also begin publishing staff hand hygiene indicators for the first time, and displaying E. coli rates on wards, making them visible to patients and visitors in the same way that MRSA and C. difficule are currently.
The Government has also appointed a new national infection lead, Dr Ruth May who is the current Executive Director of Nursing at NHS Improvement.
Dr Ruth May 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 ensure organisations improve infection control and help us to make sure poor performers get the support they need to improve quickly.”