In a care home environment, illnesses and infections can spread quickly if preventative measures are not in place. Official government statistics from the 2023/24 national norovirus and rotavirus report showed that 63% of all reported outbreaks occurred in care homes. These outbreaks included norovirus, rotavirus, sapovirus, and astrovirus. A dense population of older people with weakened immune systems means that infections are generally more prevalent, and care home managers need to take a proactive approach to help reduce the spread of infection whilst ensuring that their residents maintain a good quality of life
A dense population of older people with weakened immune systems means that infections are generally more prevalent, and care home managers need to take a proactive approach to help reduce the spread of infection whilst ensuring that their residents maintain a good quality of life. Whether you already have infection prevention and control measures in place or are looking for a cost-effective and impactful strategy to keep your residents in good health, find out all you need to know in this best practice guide.
Whether you already have infection prevention and control measures in place or are looking for a cost-effective and impactful strategy to keep your residents in good health, find out all you need to know in this best practice guide.
Individual Risk Assessments
In UK care homes, individual risk assessments are a crucial strategy for preventing the spread of infections. These assessments allow care homes to tailor their infection prevention measures to each resident’s unique circumstances, taking into account factors like age, underlying health conditions, and medical history.
By conducting personalised risk assessments, care homes can promptly identify residents at higher risk of infection and implement targeted measures to protect them, such as the introduction of additional personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff.
This approach not only enhances monitoring and surveillance but also ensures that resources are allocated efficiently, with high-risk residents receiving the necessary care and attention while allowing low-risk residents to maintain a more relaxed level of intervention.
Importantly, individual risk assessments align with regulatory standards such as the Health and Social Care Act 2008, emphasising the commitment to resident safety and wellbeing. In a sector where safeguarding vulnerable individuals is paramount, these individual risk assessments have become a cornerstone in the battle against the spread of infections within care homes.
Use of PPE
The effective use of PPE is instrumental in preventing the spread of infections within care homes, safeguarding both residents and staff. Studies on the use of PPE during the Covid pandemic supported this, with one study finding that PPE, including face masks, gloves, and aprons, acts as a crucial barrier that significantly reduces the risk of transmission from healthcare workers to residents. By adhering to PPE protocols while providing care, staff can protect the health and wellbeing of these individuals, effectively preventing outbreaks and minimising the severity of illnesses.
Notably, it is not only residents who benefit from PPE; care home staff rely on this equipment for their own protection. By wearing PPE, they can reduce their risk of contracting infections from residents or other staff members. The health and wellbeing of staff are essential for the continuity of care, and PPE serves as a safeguard for those providing that care.
In the UK, care homes must adhere to stringent regulations and guidelines regarding infection control. Proper PPE usage is often a legal requirement within healthcare settings, and non-compliance can lead to severe consequences. Care homes must ensure that their staff is well-trained and consistently follows PPE protocols to meet these regulatory standards.
PPE also plays a crucial role in mitigating the risk of asymptomatic transmission, where individuals may unknowingly spread infections. Particularly relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic, PPE such as face masks, substantially reduces the release of respiratory droplets that may carry infectious agents. This is vital in preventing inadvertent transmission of diseases by staff members and residents who may not display symptoms but can act as carriers.
Management of Care Equipment and Spaces
Hygiene practices are key to reducing the spread of infection in a contained environment such as a care home. Staff should be trained to use hand washing hygiene routines between contact with residents, and equipment, shared spaces, and touchpoints should also be thoroughly cleaned on a regular basis to help prevent the spread of infections.
The Care Home Infection Prevention and Control Manual (CH IPCM) outlines how care homes can manage environmental cleanliness in their comprehensive guide.
Alongside adhering to UK health regulations, keeping infection rates under control in your care home benefits your organisation, ensuring that you remain fully staffed, and able to provide comprehensive and compliant care services for your residents. This in turn can help to maintain a good CQC rating.
Our team of expert care consultants is committed to helping care homes improve. Whether it’s supporting care management teams in implementing new procedures for their staff and to create a better quality of care for residents, providing strategic guidance to care home providers and owners, or identifying innovative solutions that can help to improve care home commercials, we are well placed to help.
If you are a care home manager or provider needing expert advice on how to manage infection prevention and control, or other health and safety recommendations, get in touch with our friendly team today, or read our previous insights.