Helen Dunn, member of the Infection Prevention Society and Lead Nurse in infection control and prevention at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, talks to Care & Nursing Essentials about antimicrobial resistance...
In 2011 the Chief Medical Officer announced antimicrobial resistance (AMR) as a major threat to public health. This issue is also an item on the national risk register and it is widely acknowledged that it could have a severe impact on the health, morbidity and mortality of current and future generations. The causes of AMR are complex but include the overuse or misuse of antibiotics in animal and human health, poor hygiene and a lack of infection prevention and control.
Across the globe action is being taken to address this threat. Public Health England recently launched a national public-facing campaign, “Keep antibiotics working”, to encourage the avoidance of using antibiotics unnecessarily.
Whilst this is important, it’s also vital that there is increased understanding of the critical role that infection prevention plays in preventing AMR. By upholding rigorous infection prevention strategies, infection spread can be minimised and the need for antibiotics can therefore be avoided.
But how does this issue affect patients in long-term care facilities and what can we do as health and care workers to help reduce the risk of AMR?
Antibiotics can be used to treat infections caused by bacteria such as MRSA or E-coli but we know that they won’t treat patients with viruses and if used in this way can lead to AMR. To reduce the spread of viral infections health and care workers should focus on rigorous infection prevention strategies, including appropriate hand hygiene, personal protective equipment, the application of standard precautions at all times and transmission based precautions when patients have signs and symptoms of infection.
Appropriate cleaning of the environment and equipment is also vital to prevent cross transmission. Vaccination is available for some viruses including seasonal influenza and uptake should be encouraged across vulnerable groups including those over 65 and health and care workers who work in these settings.
Effective infection prevention and control can avoid one in three health care-associated infections. This means less need for antibiotics, which in turn reduces the spread of AMR. Let’s work together to ensure we only use them when they are really needed.
For more information on infection control, see the Infection Prevention Society website.