Statement on HIQA Hygiene Audits

Media Release 19th Sept 2013

Statement by the Minister for Health on HIQA Hygiene Audits

The Minster for Health takes the prevention and control of healthcare associated infections (HCAIs) very seriously.  HCAIs represent a major cause of preventable patient harm and increased healthcare costs. Both the Minister and the Department of Health welcome the publication of HIQA’s reports and note the concerns raised in these, and indeed, previous reports about hand hygiene practices particularly among medical staff.  With regard to hand hygiene the findings of the Authority suggest that hand hygiene best practice needs to become more forcefully implemented at all levels.

The Minister supports the ongoing work of the health service to improve compliance with its hand hygiene targets, including the national programme to raise awareness amongst staff, monitor compliance with national standards and to take action to reduce HCAIs in hospitals.

Responding to the concerns raised by HIQA the Director General of the HSE has instructed that all hospitals act immediately to further strengthen the actions in place for the prevention and control of HCAIs and Anti Microbial resistance (AMR), support existing good practice and improve those areas that need greater focus. His instructions include that each hospital must ensure  that a member of the senior management team is responsible for hygiene.  Every hospital is to ensure that there is a hygiene programme,based on the WHO multimodal framework, in place by the end of 2013.  Hospitals have also been requested to have their entire workforce educated and trained in hand hygiene by June 2014.

Hospitals are to provide monthly reports on progress to the National Director for Acute Services.  The HSE is also working with the main medical professional bodies to address the issue of doctor attitudes and behaviour around hand hygiene. These actions are in addition to the HSE’s continuing bi-annual hand hygiene audits which occur in both the acute sector and in the long stay area.  Additionally, since July of this year it has been mandatory for all staff to receive hand hygiene training as part of staff induction.

The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of the Department of Health has written to the Chair of the Health and Social Regulatory Forum asking that the Forum consider the matter and submit proposals as to how it might adopt a common approach to raise awareness of hand hygiene in particular and support and reinforce compliance with this very important patient safety issue.  It has also been agreed that the CMO will meet with the Director General of the HSE to discuss the issue of governance in the control and prevention of HCAIs.

The Minister has requested his Secretary General to refer the HIQA Hygiene Reports to the Medical Council and An Bord Altranais for consideration. Minister Reilly said “I have no doubt that the relevant regulatory bodies will deal appropriately with medical professionals who persist in endangering patients  through a lack of hand hygiene. My Department will be following up in this regard.”