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Top nurse spearheads drive to reduce infections in the NHS

A senior nurse is spearheading plans to drastically reduce the number of life-threatening bloodstream infections in the NHS.
Ruth May

A senior nurse is spearheading plans to drastically reduce the number of life-threatening bloodstream infections in the NHS

NHS Improvement executive director of nursing Ruth May has been unveiled as the new national infection and prevention lead as part a drive which the government says will help save lives and improve patient safety.

A new target to halve the rates of gram-negative bloodstream infections, such as E. coli , will be outlined by health secretary Jeremy Hunt today at an event at the RCN in London.

On the increase

E. coli infections have increased by more than one fifth over the past five years and killed more than 5,500 NHS patients in England last year. They are set to cost the NHS 2.3 billion by 2018.

A senior nurse is spearheading plans to drastically reduce the number of life-threatening bloodstream infections in the NHS

NHS Improvement executive director of nursing Ruth May has been unveiled as the new national infection and prevention lead as part a drive which the government says will help save lives and improve patient safety.

Ruth May
Ruth May is now national infection and prevention lead. Picture: Barney Newman

A new target to halve the rates of gram-negative bloodstream infections, such as E. coli, will be outlined by health secretary Jeremy Hunt today at an event at the RCN in London.

On the increase

E. coli infections have increased by more than one fifth over the past five years and killed more than 5,500 NHS patients in England last year. They are set to cost the NHS £2.3 billion by 2018. 

E. coli infections can often develop from people using catheters, if they are not inserted properly, left in too long or patients are not properly hydrated and going to the toilet regularly. 

Under the plans, E. coli rates will be displayed on wards, there will be strengthened Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspections to focus on infection prevent and the NHS will publish staff hand-washing indicators. 

Extra funding on offer

Commissioners that reduce E. coli bloodstream infections at hospitals by 10%, use antibiotics appropriately and prevent urinary tract infections will earn a share of extra funding of up to £45 million in 2017-18.

Dr May, who has a background in theatre nursing and has been director of nursing and deputy chief executive at Havering Primary Care Trust, said: ‘This is a clear plan to achieve real change across the NHS, focusing on a combination of strict oversight from the CQC and the collection, publication and intelligent use of data. This data will ensure organisations improve infection control and help us to make sure poor performers get the support they need to improve quickly.’

Mr Hunt praised the NHS for reducing MRSA cases by almost 60% and C. Difficile by 45% over the past six years.

He said: 'The best way to make sure antibiotics continue to work is by minimising their use, which means we need to start a new war on avoidable hospital infections.'

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