MSPs voice hospital infection concerns

Holyrood health committee says infection monitoring and surveillance “not adequate”

Friday 3rd May 2019

A cross-party committee of MSPs is calling for “swift action” on hospital infection control after an investigation found “several areas of concern” in the way infections in Scotland’s health service are monitored and combatted.

In a letter to the Health Secretary, the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee says it was unable to find “any proactive testing” of hospital water and ventilation systems for infections.

MSPs go on to call for a beefed-up whistleblowing processes, with a new reporting helpline to be given more investigative powers than the existing advice line.

The short inquiry by the nine-member group began in the wake of high-profile infections at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QUEH) in Glasgow that contributed to the death of a patient.

Lewis Macdonald MSP, the committee’s convener, said:

“The recent incidents of infection in Scotland’s hospitals will have been alarming for many members of the public. Although the evidence shows that the prevalence of health problems acquired as a consequence of the healthcare environment in Scotland is relatively low, the Committee’s inquiry has shown there are several areas of concern.

“Most crucially, it is clear the current monitoring and surveillance methods are not adequate.”

Also raised were staffing shortages in cleaning and infection control teams and a maintenance backlog across NHS Scotland.

A report by the public spending watchdog Audit Scotland found the cost of fixing all outstanding repairs in the health service was nearly £900m, including around 300 maintenance jobs at the QEUH, which is less than four years old.

Elsewhere, MSPs questioned a ‘lack of transparency and clarity’ about the roles of the different UK and Scottish bodies responsible for overseeing infection control in hospitals.

They also suggested that the chairs of the independent review looking at the QEUH’s design lacked ‘proven expertise’ in healthcare construction and design.

Mr Macdonald added: “Swift action must be taken to address these issues and we want to ensure proactive testing is undertaken so that incidents of infection are identified early to prevent outbreaks and reduce risk to patients to an absolute minimum.”