ECCA warns infection code risks loading costs onto care homes

The English Community Care Association has warned that government proposals to tackle infections in health and social care settings risk loading considerable costs on to care homes.

It questioned plans contained in a draft code of practice on the prevention and control of infections for servicesto enable all staff to have access to occupational health advice.

The care provider umbrella body was responding to the Department of Health’s consultation on the code, which closed last week.

ECCA said the code inferred that social care services would have to provide or commission the occupational health service themselves, which it said would be a “considerable cost burden”.

However, it also called for more clarity over the proposal as accompanying guidance on controlling infections in care homes said having access to an occupational health service was merely “desirable”.

ECCA also said the code needed to address what it described as the “shift of the cost of certain healthcare services onto social care”.

It said care homes lacked access to support with infection control from primary care trusts, loading costs “inappropriately” onto residents for services received for free in people’s homes or in hospital.

ECCA also warned that small, family-run care homes could be unduly burdened by proposals in the code of practice to produce an annual statement on infection and control, covering training, outbreaks, risk assessments, audits an dactions taken.

The association suggested it would be more appropriate for providers to have a continuous action plan or for such reports to be incorporated into the Care Quality Commission’s regulatory systems.

A CQC report in September said poor communication between hospitals and care homes was making it tough for them to fight infections.

The report found that 28% of care homes were not implementing existing guidance on controlling infections, published in 2006.

The CQC said that more formal communication procedures were needed to stop infection spreading from hospitals to care homes and vice versa, which has been included in the code of practice.

Care homes will be assessed by the CQC under the code from October 2008 onwards.

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