Infection prevention leaders continue training through Nuffield Health's award-winning programme

During the pandemic, the learnings from our university programme were cascaded from hospitals, through clinical services and into fitness and wellbeing facilities, helping to keep everyone safe.

As students return to their studies across the country, Nuffield Health’s hospital matrons are dusting down their notepads to begin the independent sector’s first and only specialist programme in infection control at De Montfort University, Leicester. 

The Director of Infection Prevention and Control (DIPC) programme was first run in April 2014 with the aim of enhancing infection control knowledge across Nuffield Health’s network of UK hospitals and clinical services. Now in its seventh year, it is a requirement for Nuffield Health’s matrons (Heads of Clinical Services) at each hospital to complete, and the programme has come into extra prominence during the COVID pandemic.

“All the matrons taking part have different clinical backgrounds”, says Collette Orme, Matron at Nuffield Health Derby Hospital. “I understood some aspects of the content but a significant part was new, so the programme has been an important learning experience.

“The pandemic has highlighted the need for infection prevention specific knowledge. At my hospital I receive around ten questions about this area from patients and relatives every day. People are much more informed due to the pandemic,” adds Collette.

Maggie Harris, Matron at Nuffield Health Tees Hospital, completed the programme alongside Collette during the COVID pandemic. “Since doing it, I have appointed a dedicated specialist infection control lead nurse at my hospital. This appointment shows how important we see this role and it replaces the two infection prevention coordinator nurses who previously shared responsibility for infection control as well as their clinical role,” she says.

“Completing the programme made me reflect on what my hospital team did well and what areas we could strengthen. As a hospital team, we are delivering the expertise from this programme on a day-to-day basis,” adds Maggie.

The programme is being run in partnership with the De Montfort University, Leicester, and combines one assignment and a practice assessment module portfolio relating to the practice environment, supported by two days of face-to-face learning. One of the methods of assessment focuses on the role of healthcare practitioners and the impact of infection prevention upon quality outcomes.

Chris Finch, Nuffield Health’s Infection Prevention Quality Lead, who supports the programme delivery, says: “It’s been challenging for all the matrons, including Maggie and Collette, to complete the programme during the COVID pandemic. They have been inspiring in fitting in the assignments while leading infection prevention and control in their hospitals.”

During last year’s programme, Chris had to reshape the programme to include a COVID module and all learning was done virtually due to the pandemic.

“Peer-to-peer learning is beneficial with sharing ideas and developing relationships, but we did our best to deliver this virtually last year. The group particularly enjoyed the practical outbreak management session with a virtual skills lab scenario including hospital outpatients and inpatients.

“The first group of this year – the fourteenth group to undertake the programme – have just started their learning and are showing great enthusiasm,” adds Chris.

Phil Golding, a new Matron at Tunbridge Wells Hospital, is part of this year’s intake after joining Nuffield Health in September. He says: “From an academic perspective it underpinned the fundamentals of infection prevention and control, I enjoyed revisiting microbiology and how to stop infections from spreading by breaking the ‘chain of survival’.

“The programme is certainly giving me the insight and ability to critically review the services on offer and ensure they are evidenced based and best practice,” says Phil.

The programme has been opened to participants from Nuffield Health’s wider clinical services and the best practice infection control was cascaded down into Nuffield Health’s 113 fitness and wellbeing centres across the UK last year.

“Four physiologists for different regions spread knowledge and hospital-standard infection control procedures were implemented into our fitness and wellbeing centres during the pandemic,” Chris Finch comments.

The programme was awarded an accolade by Nursing Times in 2017 and continues to strengthen every year. “While COVID is the hottest topic, the prevention of other infections such as MRSA are vital to continuing to provide safe care for people. Nuffield Health is committed to investing in and championing clinical excellence and this programme makes a big difference to our people, patients and across the Charity,” concludes Chris.

Last updated Sunday 17 October 2021

First published on Sunday 17 October 2021