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In today’s news, below, you will see that the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service has been placed on special measures due to what are considered serious lapses in hygiene and infection control measures, in parts of the service, over time. In researching the news, I came across reports of continued aggressive attacks on the ambulance staff by the very people they’re trying to help – both at the pick-up point and during transport to hospital, where patients physically abuse staff and sometimes attempt to damage lifesaving equipment. Crews have been threatened with fake firearms. Attacks continue at a rate of more than eight a week.
I also discovered that because of increased demand for ambulance services, the crews’ ability to reach the most serious calls within the eight-minute target is declining year on year, as our graph shows.
The special measures put in place, require implementation of a framework to provide “robust assurance of best practice in hygiene, cleanliness and Infection Prevention & Control (IPC) across the organisation” and that documentation relating to auditing of environment, vehicles, reusable patient equipment and cleaning equipment is completed, submitted and reviewed by the Trust risk manager. Action plans must be developed and implemented to address sub-optimal performance.
Further, potential patient safety incidents must be identified. Incident forms must be completed and reported promptly when a potential risk is identified, e.g. if vehicle equipment and interior surfaces are not cleaned after each patient journey, at the end of every shift and ‘stepped down’ weekly for a complete clean. Finally, patient safety incidents relating to hygiene, cleanliness and IPC must be reported and reviewed on an ongoing basis. Trend analysis reports must be collated and action plans developed to address performance shortfalls.
I’m probably going to be slated for saying so, but if I or one of my loved ones was going through a health emergency and needed urgent help, I wouldn’t be happy to learn that our lives had been jeopardised because the crew was cleaning the ambulance. I know members of our local service and on occasion they have to leave one emergency they’ve been attending, in favour of another that’s deemed more urgent. While resources and funding are in short supply, I’m not surprised that standards are dropping. Sometimes we have to accept that cleaning needs to take second place. Also, attacks on crews need to be stopped somehow.
Your thoughts please?
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22nd March 2018