Globally, as many as 1 in 10 patients will acquire a healthcare associated infection (HAI), whilst receiving care. These infections sadly cause thousands of deaths daily, posing a serious risk to immunocompromised patients
Standard infection control precautions (SICPs) are the minimum infection prevention practices that apply to all patient care, regardless of whether infection is known to be present or not. This helps to prevent the spread of infection and ensure the safety of patients, healthcare workers and visitors.
For patients infected or suspected to be infected with a specific infection, it is crucial to follow transmission-based precautions in combination with the standard precautions to prevent the cross transmission of these infectious agents
Standard Precautions for Infection Control:
1. Patient Assessment for infection risk
Patients must be assessed for infection risk on arrival at the care facility. This will help staff determine which precautions need to be applied during patient care and where the patient should be placed within the medical facility.
1 in 10 patients contract a HAI as a result of receiving care, so patients should continue to be reviewed throughout their stay in case any symptoms develop.
2. Hand hygiene
On average there are over 93 contact episodes per hour between patients, staff and visitors in healthcare facilities. This poses a serious risk to immunocompromised patients. Frequent and proper hand washing helps to significantly reduce the risk of cross-contamination.
Neil Wigglesworth, Director of Infection Prevention and Control at Guys and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust suggests hands should be decontaminated at five critical points:
- Before touching a patient
2. Before clean/aseptic procedures
3. After body fluid exposure/risk
4. After touching a patient
5. After touching patient surroundings.
3. Environmental cleaning and disinfection
Proper environmental cleaning is crucial in healthcare facilities, to ensure that vulnerable patients are not at risk of cross contamination. Environmental cleaning and disinfection inhibits the build-up of infectious agents on a surface, which consequently reduces the risk of transmission.
Effective environmental cleaning follows a two-step process.
- Clear the surface area and clean it with a detergent wipe. This limits the ability of infectious agents thriving and increases the effectiveness of disinfection.
2. Disinfect the surface area with a 70% ipa disinfectant wipe to kill or inhibit the growth of infectious agents.
Find out more information on the best method of surface cleaning.
4. Safe management of patient care equipment
Reusable patient care equipment can easily become contaminated with blood, urine, vomit and other human waste. This waste has the potential to be infectious, so it is crucial that all equipment is properly disinfected to ensure it is safe for use when delivering patient care.
The World Health Organization advise that where possible items should be single use and disposable to limit the potential for cross infection. Bedpans, urinals , jugs and washbowls are all examples of items that should be single-use and disposable.
In cases where equipment does need to be reused, such as commodes or patient trolleys, it is crucial that decontamination protocols are followed closely and that items are fully decontaminated between every use.
5. Safe management of body fluids
Human waste, including blood, vomit and urine should be disposed of safely, minimising health workers exposure.
Hospital macerators are considered the most hygienic way to dispose of human waste, as they dispose of both the waste, and the single-use pulp container in seconds, ensuring any source of infection is eradicated at the point of disposal. Vernacare’s hospital macerators also incorporate hands-free technology, further minimising the risk of spreading dangerous pathogens between surfaces in highly infectious environments.
Spillages of blood, body fluids, secretions and excretions also pose an infection risk in healthcare settings, so the safe and effective management of spillages is essential.
In the first instance, prevent spillages by using a body-fluid spill kit such as VernaGel to stabilise bodily fluids and other medical waste into an easily transportable, semi-solid gel. This helps to prevent spillages of potentially infectious matter.
When a spillage does occur, it is crucial that it is dealt with as quickly and efficiently as possible. The area should be marked off to ensure that no one can walk through it. When dealing with the spillage, PPE including an apron and gloves should always be worn by staff for optimum safety. Protocols for proper decontamination should be followed and all cleaning wipes should be carefully disposed of.
6. Use of personal protective equipment
PPE is vital in healthcare as it protects medical staff from infection. Depending on the procedure, different levels of PPE will be suitable. Medical professionals should always assess the risk of exposure to determine the appropriate PPE that should be worn. See transmission-based precautions to find out what PPE is necessary when dealing with patients suspected of being infectious.
- Eye masks
- Face masks
Most PPE is single-use only and should be changed immediately after each patient or procedure and safely disposed of in healthcare waste bins.
7. Safe handling and disposal of hospital waste
Patient care produces a wide variety of waste which can be infectious or even hazardous. It is important that you always dispose of waste immediately and in the way advised.
There are 3 categories of waste in healthcare:
- Healthcare waste – all waste produced as a result of delivering patient care e.g. dressings, bedpans and sharps.
2. Special waste – includes any waste that contains a dangerous or hazardous substance e.g. chemicals and pharmaceuticals.
3. Domestic waste – waste that is not related to the delivery of healthcare e.g. glass, cardboard and plastics.
Always follow the hospitals guidance when disposing of waste as there are different waste streams and precautions in place dependent on the nature of the waste.
It is important to always dispose of waste immediately and as close to the point of use as possible.
8. Respiratory hygiene / cough etiquette.
Respiratory hygiene is an infection prevention measure crucial to preventing the transmission of respiratory pathogens spread by droplet or airborne routes.
To prevent the transmission of pathogens, tissues should always be provided and used by the patient to cover their nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing. These tissues should be quickly disposed off after use and the patient should wash and disinfect their hands as soon as possible.
9. Safe handling and disposal of linen
Used or soiled linens can be a contact transmission, so it is crucial that they are safely managed to prevent the spread of infection.
A linen deposit should be available on all wards to quickly dispose of linen once it has been used. This linen should be removed from the bed and placed directly into the linen deposit, as placing the linen on surfaces or the floor in the interim will lead to environmental contamination.
If linen has been used by a patient who is known or suspected of having an infection, or has become contaminated by infectious waste such as faeces, blood or vomit, the linen should be placed in a water-soluble bag. This bag should then be kept in a designated, isolated area. These linens will be disposed of to ensure there are no cross-contamination issues when laundering and reusing.
Carefully following these precautions is the most crucial step to ensuring this safety. At Vernacare, our goal is to reduce the spread of harmful viruses, bacteria, and spores by manufacturing single-use disposable products, to keep patients and healthcare workers safe.
For more information on both standard and transmission-based precautions the CDC website is a great resource.
If you are interested in reviewing and updating your infection prevention practices and procedures, Vernacare are here to help. Find out more about how our market-leading hygiene solutions are helping to prevent infection and create a safer future for 1000’s of healthcare facilities around the world here.