£50,000 fine proposed for breach of hygiene code

Although outbreaks of nosocomial infections, e.g. Clostridium difficile and MRSA, have dropped by almost a third since last year, and many hygiene measures have been initiated and improved, there are now proposals for an even more stringent measure to control hygiene: the possibility that National Health Service (NHS) Trust hospitals that break hygiene regulations could be fined up to £50,000 in the future. In addition, inspectors may also be empowered to close unhygienic wards or clinics.

The hygiene code covers infection control, decontamination and cleanliness. However, recent data has revealed that, although there has been a considerable improvement in hygiene standards in hospitals, about 25% of NHS Trusts, which govern their area hospitals, have failed to meet at least one of these standards.
These are part of new measures that come under the new Care Quality Commission (CQC), which will replace the Healthcare Commission, the current NHS supervisory body, in 2009. As well as regulating hospitals, the CQC will become responsible for overseeing general practitioners’ (GP) surgeries, care homes, and private facilities, all currently regulated by several different organisations. 
The maximum fine of £50,000 would be issued for the most serious offences, e.g. not carrying out advised improvements after an infection outbreak. The proposals also include fixed penalty notices with fines up to £4,000, issued against Trusts that do not meet minimum hygiene standards. Further, if a Trust obstructs a CQC inspector, or fails to provide documents or data, it could be fined £1,250.
Although these draft measures, which will further govern hygiene control, have met with opposition, they are now under consideration. 
See page 2: Advice on MRSA control


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