12 May 2017 | Elaine Cloutman-Green
The NHS has always been a complicated environment in which to work. There are so many departments and knowledge sets that must come together to deliver the best possible patient care.
Now hospital environments are increasingly demanded to be more like home/hotel environments than the traditional healthcare that we have all known.
This is important for patient mental well-being but is challenging in terms of wider patient safety, for both estates and facilities teams and for infection prevention and control.
Antibiotic resistance is an increasing problem, and many of the bacteria linked with this are able to survive for a long time on surfaces, especially on items such as sinks. So how do we manage in this new environment?
First, share knowledge and expertise. Facilities teams have vast experience with different surface materials, with cleaning agents and engineering design. Infection prevention and control teams know about how different microorganisms behave and the challenges linked to transmission. As requirements become more complex we need to develop a common language and ensure that our interventions deliver for patients.
Secondly, we need to discuss things earlier. When new hospitals are being built or wards refurbished, everyone needs to have a shared vision at the design stage of what items are key non-negotiables for each of the groups involved. This data must be consistent and shared to support the process.
All sides need to be involved in the strategic meetings at trust level. If FM is involved in flushing for Pseudomonas aeruginosa control, for example, then it needs a seat at the table during water management committee meetings. Having the ability not just to share knowledge but to impact on its use is essential to improving the process. Everyone talks about multi-disciplinary teams in the NHS. The time has come to make them work in practice .
Elaine Cloutman-Green is an infection prevention and control practitioner and lecturer at Great Ormond Street Hospital