- Reference Number: HEY-199/2016
- Departments: Infection Prevention and Control, Trustwide - Adult
- Last Updated: 1 April 2016
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This leaflet tells you about infection prevention and control. It explains how infection may be spread and what you should do to prevent the spread of infection. If after reading it, you do not understand any part of this leaflet or require any more information, please contact the Infection Prevention and Control Team.
What is Infection control?
Infection prevention and control is the use of safe practices and ways of working that help to prevent or reduce infections within healthcare settings. Good standards of infection prevention and control are essential to safeguard the health and safety of all patients, members of the public and staff, including those employed on a voluntary or external contract basis.
Why is infection control important?
Meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Clostridium difficile (C. diff) and a number of other germs can cause serious problems for vulnerable individuals. Using good infection prevention and control measures can prevent some infections occurring whilst patients are in hospital. Safe working practices protect yourself and others.
How are Infections spread?
Contact: Hands are one of the most common ways in which germs are spread from person to person. Germs can also be spread by touching surfaces or equipment which has not been properly cleaned.
Airborne: Droplets are spread by coughing and sneezing. They can spread germs such as chicken pox, Tuberculosis (TB) and influenza (flu).
Ingestion: Germs which cause gastro-intestinal infections can be ingested (swallowed) in contaminated food or drink, or as a result of poor food hygiene. Individuals who are infected may be a source of infection to others, (this is called cross infection), especially if they have symptoms of diarrhoea and vomiting.
Blood and Body Fluids: Germs and viruses such as Hepatitis B can be spread to staff or patients through injury from a contaminated sharp object.
Hand washing – Hands should be washed with soap and water or cleaned with hand sanitiser before and after entering a clinical area, when handling equipment and before and after contact with a patient or their environment.
It is also important to decontaminate your hands before eating or handling food and after using the toilet.
Although hand sanitiser is a convenient alternative, hands that are visibly dirty must be washed with soap and water.
It is especially important to wash your hands with soap and water if you are in a ward or clinical area where there are patients experiencing symptoms of diarrhoea and/or vomiting as sanitiser may not kill the organisms that cause these infections.
Clean environment – Germs survive in dusty, unclean surroundings. All equipment should be cleaned after use and the environment kept clean. Any soiling or spills should be cleaned up immediately. If this is not possible, the area should be made safe and the problem reported to the Facilities Department.
Overshoes should be worn if you come into the hospital after working on a construction site, for example when entering a hospital building.
Trolleys, such as those used for sales of sweets or newspapers, should not be taken into isolation rooms or onto wards which are closed due to an outbreak of infection.
Staff should not use the toilets provided for patient use; staff and public toilets are available.
Protective clothing – Employers have a legal requirement to provide the workforce with suitable protective clothing. These should be worn as advised. A risk assessment should be undertaken for each situation. Gloves and aprons should be worn if there is a risk of contact with blood or other body fluids. Always read the precautions advice on the poster located outside each isolation room and seek advice from the nurse in charge before entering an isolation room.
Clinical waste and laundry – Soiled linen and clinical waste must be handled safely. Training should be given for handling hazardous waste or infected linen. After use, discarded items should be separated and deposited into the correct container and properly stored until collection. Both linen skips and waste bins are colour coded. Charts explaining the colour coding system are displayed throughout the hospital. Waste suitable for landfill disposal should not be mixed with waste requiring incineration.
Needle sticks and other sharp objects – Careless actions could lead to an accidental cut or puncture. All staff should dispose of used sharps safely and be alert for inappropriately discarded sharp objects. It is important to follow the correct procedure for handling and disposing of sharp objects. If an injury occurs the following action should be taken:
- Encourage bleeding.
- Wash with warm running water and soap for five minutes. Do not put the wound into your mouth.
- Cover with a waterproof dressing.
- Report the incident to your manager or designated contact person for further advice so that they can complete the appropriate documentation /incident forms.
Health and Welfare
- Do not come to work or into your voluntary placement if you are unwell.
- If you experience diarrhoea and vomiting, (gastroenteritis), do not return to the Trust until you have been free of symptoms for 48 hours.
- Report any potentially infectious illnesses to your manager or supervisor, for example, a rash, diarrhoea and vomiting, chicken pox or flu.
- You should be informed by your manager or supervisor about any health tests or specific immunisation which is required when working in a health care setting.
Should you require further advice on any of the issues contained in this leaflet, please do not hesitate to contact the Infection Prevention and Control Team on:
HRI (01482) 674869 or CHH (01482) 623066