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The BMA in Scotland has called for action to ensure hospital buildings and other healthcare settings are built and maintained in a way that minimises risk of infection.
The union is warning that a lack of resources aggravates the risk of hospital infections.
Responding to a Scottish Parliament health and sport committee inquiry into health hazards in the healthcare environment, the union says clinicians with expertise in infection control should be part of hospital design.
However, it warns the consultant workforce is stretched, and that few infection-control teams have the capacity to contribute fully to major projects, even where they asked to do so.
The BMA points out that infections acquired directly from healthcare environments are rare but that consequences can be severe.
"With well-engineered and maintained buildings, with sufficient staff to deliver healthcare, the risks should be low," the BMA says in its evidence.
"In a system under financial pressure, with staffing levels often stretched thinly and a significant maintenance backlog, the risks can begin to rise and infection, while still relatively rare, can be more common."
The BMA warns that tightening resources across the health system as a whole can have a negative effect on infection control.
The union says that some health boards should be praised for creating specialist nurse or scientist posts in the infection-control team to develop the knowledge and expertise needed to deal with the problems of buildings.
However, it warns of a lack of budget for training staff to ensure they are able to do this, saying that while there are courses available, the fees vastly outweigh study-leave budgets.
The committee’s inquiry was announced amid concerns about infection control at the flagship new Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, where patients have been infected with a fungus linked to pigeon faeces.
A 10-year-old boy and 73-year-old woman who had contracted cryptococcus later died.
A Healthcare Environment Scotland inspection revealed areas of concern including a maintenance backlog and cleaning deficiencies.
Speaking when the inspection report was published, Lewis Morrison, chair of the BMA in Scotland, said that it was ‘unacceptable’ that some parts of the site were in such poor repair that they could not be cleaned.
"A further theme that comes through is shortages of staff – including infection control doctors, who play a crucial role with the assessment and mitigation of infection risks presented by the built environment." Dr Morrison added.
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