All Our Health - Protecting People from Infections
This week, we are celebrating World Antibiotic Awareness Week (#WAAW) and the theme for this year is ‘Change can’t wait: our time with antibiotics is running out’. With this in mind, our focus is on prevention. In 2014 we published a blog, A burning platform - maximising the nursing contribution to the antimicrobial resistance challenge highlighting the role that nurses and other health professionals have in protection and prevention. This blog will highlight the All Our Health resources and tools which are available to all health and care professionals supporting the prevention messages.
So why are we focusing our attention on the prevention of infections? Unfortunately, there have been no new types of antibiotics invented in the last 30 years, however scientists are working hard to bridge this gap. More research and developments are underway, but it may take 15-20 years to get a viable product on the shelves. Organisms have a major defence mechanism– they can develop resistance to our army of antibiotics and they are mustering!
Within the last four years, there has been a 35% increase in antibiotic resistant bloodstream infections. Healthcare professionals need to work to ensure that drug resistant infections do not become the norm. Everyone who works in a health and social care setting has a professional and ethical duty to protect and preserve the antibiotics we have, reduce avoidable infections and promote health and wellbeing.
The prevention of infection is just as important as treatment and we must act now!
The Department of Health and Social Care published a call to action in November – Prevention is better than cure: our vision to help you live well for longer. This vitally timed document sets out the Departments ambition to focus on prevention of ill health, supporting people to make healthier life choices and to ensure we stay as well as we can for as long as we can.
All Our Health is a call to action for all healthcare professionals to use their skills and relationships to maximize their impact on avoidable illness, health protection and promotion of wellbeing and resilience.
Mental health, cancer, cardiovascular & respiratory illnesses are all increasing risk factors for developing infections. It is vital we use a holistic approach in our interventions and interactions placing people, families and communities at the centre of what we do. The reduction of infections and the prevention of them cannot succeed in isolation.
Smoking contributes to the increased risk of respiratory diseases and infections, including cancers and Chronic Obstructive Airways Disease. The treatment of these conditions also lowers the body’s defence mechanisms to fight infection.
Alcohol related harm and conditions also reduce the immune response to tackling infections as well as having a detrimental effect on mental health. Cognitive functions can be also be impaired leading to risky behaviours, falls, or accidents which may result in wounds which fail to heal or become infected.
Obesity, malnutrition, immobility and dehydration are all risk factors associated with development of infections. Unstable blood sugars, a lack of essential minerals and vitamins and dehydration have all been shown to contribute to a whole host of long-term conditions and avoidable illnesses such as UTI’s, diabetes, poor circulation and pressure/vascular ulcers. These conditions are placing people at risk of developing infections which are difficult to treat and heal. These are often compounded by an underlying cardio vascular disease.
Using the All Our Health Framework, all health and care professionals could be equipped with the essential tools and resources to help with the often perceived difficult and challenging conversations that may occur with people you care for. These tools will offer support and guidance on the prevention of infections, the conditions the individual may be at risk of and what they can do to keep themselves and their families well. Placing prevention at the heart of what we do saves lives, helps people live longer in better health, reduces inequalities, and most importantly, helps to stop infections at the source.
There are over 19 million nurses & midwives across the globe and if we all work together, we can make a huge impact in the fight against antimicrobial resistance, become system stewards and protect the populations health.
Susie Singleton is a Consultant Nurse within Health Protection & IPC at PHE
Karen Shaw is Infection, Prevention and Control Lead for PHE
Joanne Bosanquet is Deputy Chief Nurse for PHE