Scottish Government Healthcare Associated Infection (HAI) Task Force Report On Delivery Programme: 2008-2011

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Foreword by the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing

NICOLA STURGEONI have made tackling Healthcare Associated Infections ( HAI) a top priority and in the past three years the national HAI Task Force has been instrumental in supporting a range of measures to drive infection rates down. MRSA and Clostridium difficile infections ( CDI) are now at their lowest levels in Scotland since monitoring began. In 2007, over 6000 cases of CDI were reported and in the last year those numbers have more than halved. For MRSA there has been similar progress made, with nearly 900 cases reported in 2007 and in the last year case numbers fell to fewer than 400.

This progress not only reflects well on the Task Force but also on the commitment and sustained effort of frontline healthcare workers who are delivering high-quality care on a daily basis across a wide range of health settings. And while it is clear that significant progress has been made, it is equally important that we ensure these substantial gains are sustained and that continuous improvement in the delivery of patient care is embedded in daily clinical practice.

The independent review of Clostridium difficile at the Vale of Leven Hospital brought into very sharp focus the need for continued vigilance across the healthcare system; the public inquiry that is now underway will ensure that all necessary lessons are learned. In advance of these findings, however, significant work has already been done by NHS boards in response to the independent review findings to ensure that necessary policies, practices and guidance are in place to support staff to drive forward improvements in the key areas of governance, leadership and surveillance across NHSS.

More information about infections is now being published on individual board websites than ever before. The Healthcare Environment Inspectorate ( HEI) is also helping to ensure that Scotland's hospitals are subjected to unprecedented levels of scrutiny. And the ongoing alignment between the work of the HAI Task Force and the Scottish Patient Safety Programme ( SPSP) will continue to help ensure sustainability in the progress being made.

The challenges of reducing HAI are multi-faceted, and the membership of the HAI Task Force has needed to reflect a wide cross-section of NHS and professional backgrounds and expertise, as well as public representation. It is this diversity of common interest and purpose that has helped to ensure the very significant progress that has been made, and it is essential that we continue to build on this progress to ensure the momentum for reducing HAI is sustained across the entire healthcare economy. A recent review of the HAI Task Force structure will help to support that approach, as will the work already underway with national stakeholder agencies and NHS boards to identify HAI delivery priorities for 2011 and beyond.

Ensuring strong leadership across the HAI agenda in Scotland will remain a priority. Continued public involvement in the development and delivery of our national strategy for the prevention and control of HAI will help to ensure that tackling infections and reducing the risk of avoidable harm remains a shared priority for the Scottish Parliament, healthcare professionals, the public and all users of NHSS services.

Finally, I would like to express my personal thanks to the members of the HAI Task Force and all those staff working across NHSS who have, through their individual and collective efforts, helped to ensure that the risk of avoidable harm to patients continues to be addressed.

NICOLA STURGEON, MSP
Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing