A new study has investigated measures used to control infection in care homes for older people.
The study involved analysing data and previous research from 2007 to 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic, in a bid to understand the reasons how viruses spread and identify how to influence this both now and into the future.
The research was published in the journal, Health Expectations, and is funded by the National Institute for Health Research Greater Manchester Patient Safety Translational Research Centre (NIHR GM PSTRC). The Centre is a partnership between The University of Manchester and Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust.
Dr Maria Panagioti, lead of the GM PSTRC’s Safer Care Systems and Transitions Theme and an author of this study, said: “In England, Government policy around the discharge of patients from hospitals into care homes has been used to explain how COVID-19 spreads though care homes.
“However, we believe this is only part of the story as less attention has been given to investigating the role Infection Prevention and Control played. In conducting this research we’ve analysed a large number of studies to identify some of the reasons why Infection Prevention and Control might not always be effective in stopping COVID in its tracks and how this can be improved to make healthcare safer in care homes for older people.
The research identified that one of the challenges faced by care homes is uncovering how an outbreak begins. Then, once an infection begins to spread, identifying who is responsible for the necessary control measures is not always easy. High staff turnover was also found to be an additional challenge. The need to bring in external health care professionals such as GPs to diagnose or treat an infection effects Infection Prevention and Control (IPC).
Researchers concluded that training staff repeatedly could support them in ensuring IPC is effectively practiced across care homes as this would help to, overcome one of the key reasons why IPC in care homes has not been as effective as it could have been, i.e. high staff turnover. However, the success of this measure depends upon managerial commitment and organisational improvements being made within care homes.
Dr Panagioti, continued: “Our research has identified how important it is to understand the unique challenges care homes face regarding IPC. We believe repetitive staff training in IPC is key in helping to improve safety for care home residents and we look forward to seeing these recommendations being acted upon.”
An experienced public contributor, who is an informal carer, was involved in the research, and said: ‘‘Having previously inspected acute hospital inpatient and mental health inpatient wards for their condition and cleanliness as a Public Member throughout Northwest England, and previously having family members / family friends admitted into care homes, I was genuinely interested in assisting with this much needed research study.
“The findings from this study on effective Infection Prevention and Control in care home settings if adhered to by owners, managers and the staff working within care homes, should make a positive difference to the safety and welfare of care home residents by reducing the risks of any potential infections that may originate and then spread. A particular strength of the study was that the voice of those with lived experience of care homes and their family members/ family carers was both listened to and incorporated into the recommendations.”