Healthcare Improvement Scotland has been working with the Care Inspectorate and partners from across health and social care to develop new infection prevention and control (IPC) standards. Here, Pauline McIntyre, Deputy Director of Care at Erskine, a charity caring for veterans in four care homes across Scotland, shares her experience of supporting the development of the new standards and why they are important in social care.

"I joined Erskine in 2003 and have progressed in the organisation through a number of career opportunities from house manager, practice development and then moving to clinical governance and quality improvement. Reflecting on my career and the different roles I’ve had is an important reminder of the diverse role of care home nurses, our many areas of responsibility and extended scope of practice.

"Over the past 20 months we have all been faced with profound challenges as we work tirelessly to keep our residents safe, well and living fulfilling lives. We have been responsive to implementing ever changing guidance around how best to keep our residents safe in their homes. There has been a great deal of pressure placed on us to embed new approaches, systems and processes at pace. We continue to rise to this challenge because our resident’s quality of life and safety is paramount. Although it has been a difficult time there has been some good news stories. I’m personally pleased to see more partnership and integrated working across health and social care.

"When the opportunity came up to be involved in developing the new IPC standards I was delighted to support this work and offer my knowledge and experience as a care home nurse. From the outset it was important for me that the group considered the practical implications of decisions made about the standards especially around how the standards could be achieved in care home environments.

"Communications from the project team at Healthcare Improvement Scotland started in March this year and the first development meeting commenced in April. The group met virtually to discuss, debate and direct the content of the new standards. The project team kept us on track and where further thinking was required about what would and wouldn’t work in different settings sub group meetings were arranged with updates fed back to the group. Everyone in the group was given opportunities to contribute throughout the development process. My input always considered aspects that we cannot forget, care homes are people’s homes.

"Until my involvement in developing new IPC standards I had not referred to the previous Healthcare Associated Infection standards from 2015, simply because I was not aware of them. Although they were developed in recognition of the integration of health and social care the reality was that they were healthcare focused. The language and terminology did not resonate in social care.

"I have been proud to be involved in developing new IPC standards. IPC is well known to us all, never more so than during this pandemic. Using these standards alongside the National Infection Prevention and Control Manual will help us to deliver care in ways that minimise the risk of infection. The new standards need to be viewed in a realistic way in that not every part will apply in every care setting, but where we can apply this good practice, no matter the care setting we work in, a lot can be achieved. This is particularly important in somewhere like a care home which is not a clinical environment.

"There have been many consultations to read and contribute to of late. I would however urge you to make a commitment whatever your role and wherever you work in care to make it your business to get involved and give your feedback on the draft IPC standards."

Pauline McIntyre is Deputy Director of Care at Erskine. Pauline has been a registered nurse for 32 years, a Queen’s Nurse since 2019 and is currently studying for an MSc in Healthcare Management.

Draft IPC standards have been published and are out for public consultation until Tuesday 7 December 2021. If you would like to provide feedback on the draft IPC standards then please visit the Healthcare Improvement Scotland website for more information.