31 October 2008
By Paul Dicken
The new health and social care inspectorate has launched a consultation on its registration process and the requirements health care providers will have to meet on infections.
On October 24, the Care Quality Commission began consulting on what NHS trusts need to do to meet health care associated infection standards, as figures showed a fall in the rates of infections caused by the C difficile bacteria. Trusts face prosecution, financial penalties or suspension if they fail to meet the standards.
Cynthia Bower, chief executive of the commission, which takes on inspection responsibilities in April 2009, said: 'We recognise that there is no magic bullet to meeting the challenge of HCAI. Success will be achieved through a combination of constant vigilance and very hard work.
'But we won't compromise on quality and we won't hesitate to be tough in cases where trusts are letting people down. Our shared aim has to be fewer avoidable deaths and improved quality of care for patients.'
In the Healthcare Commission's last annual health check, published on October 16, 40% of acute and specialist trusts failed to comply with standards on infection control, decontamination and cleanliness, and meet the targets for MRSA infections. This raised concern about the ability of some trusts to meet the registration standards when they apply early next year.
The CQC published its consultation documents a day after quarterly C difficile figures were released by the Health Protection Agency showing 'significant progress' in controlling outbreaks and reducing the number of infections.
Figures for April to June 2008 showed an 18% fall from the previous quarter, and a 38% fall from the same period in 2007.
Maggie Kemmner, head of safety at the Healthcare Commission, said the data were the first sign of progress against C difficile and the challenge was now for the NHS to sustain the falls in infection.
She said: 'Our recent assessments have shown that some trusts, many outside the acute sector, still need to strengthen systems for protecting patients. We will be watching those trusts closely.'
Care Quality Commission website