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Collaboration is key to infection prevention

17 October 2018

Cleaning Matters recently attended the first ever Infection Prevention Show in Glasgow (30th September to 2nd October, SEC). It brought together infection prevention and control specialists from across the UK to discuss the increasing difficulties we face in a financially challenging time. It also provided a platform to showcase the latest innovations and technologies in infection prevention and control (IPC).  

The deadliest war being fought against infections is, of course, in the hospital and healthcare sector where antimicrobial resistance is causing standard treatments to become ineffective and infections to persist, which may spread to others.

But in his session, Infection Prevention Show host Dr Phil Hammond – an NHS doctor, BBC broadcaster and Private Eye journalist – focused on the IPC challenges we face, not just in healthcare, but in other partner organisations such as veterinary, pharmacy, hospitality, social care and education.

Dr Phil said that we need collaboration to help solve the complex problems facing us within these environments, as well as "a culture that allows us to speak up and challenge, knowing our concerns will be acted on".

This, he said, is defined brilliantly by Margaret Heffernan in her book A Bigger Prize:

"Innovative organisations thrive not because they breed superstars but because they cherish, nurture and support the vast range of talents, personalities and skills that true creativity requires. Collaboration is a habit of mind, solidified by routine and prepared on openness, generosity, rigour and patience. 

"It requires precise and fearless communication, without status, awe or intimidation. Everyone must bring their best. And failure is part of the deal, an inevitable part of the process to be greeted with support, encouragement and faith. The safest hospitals are those where it’s easiest to acknowledge an error. The biggest prizes grow as they are shared."

This call for greater collaboration is particularly worth bearing in mind as we head into the flu season, and that of the 'winter vomiting bug', norovirus.

While experts say that the flu season in 2018 will be difficult to predict, looking over the past four years of flu outbreaks, there is a clear trend in increasing infections, especially in care homes, according to reports from Public Health England (PHE). A lecturer in public health at Liverpool University has also warned that a summer outbreak of norovirus could be a sign of a mutated strain, which could lead to a greater number of cases this winter.

Proper cleaning and hygiene practices, along with open and honest communication and collaboration among cleaning staff and between cleaning teams and other staff, will be vital in helping to prevent the spread of such infections.