Eluned Morgan MS, Minister for Health and Social Services
The NHS in Wales has worked incredibly hard throughout the Covid-19 pandemic to do all it can to keep the virus out of hospitals and to protect people being cared for, often in very difficult circumstances.
Rigorous infection control procedures have been in place in all NHS settings, including hospitals; free PPE has been available to all NHS and social care services throughout the pandemic; guidance has been issued and regularly updated about social distancing, bed spacing, staff and patient testing and mask wearing and multiple checks have been undertaken by health boards, Healthcare Inspectorate Wales and the Health and Safety Executive.
But despite this huge effort and all these measures being in place, Covid-19 infections have been contracted in hospitals. They account for around 1% of all Covid-19 infections. Very sadly, in some cases, some people have come to harm or died after acquiring Covid-19 in hospitals.
These hospital-acquired infections are called nosocomial infections. The NHS in Wales has a system in place to record every incident of a hospital-acquired infection via the ICNET database – this is unique in the UK.
If an incident does occur of hospital acquired covid 19 which causes harm it is important that NHS Wales is open with people and their relatives and it is important that the health board undertakes an investigation to determine what has happened, what can be learned and what needs to happen next to minimise the likelihood of the incident happening to anyone else.
As COVID-19 community transmission rates have risen to unprecedentedly high levels in recent weeks, driven by the spread of the Omicron variant, we have seen an increase in hospital admissions and an associated rise in numbers of nosocomial infections.
Investigations of harm that has occurred due to nosocomial transmission of COVID-19 have always played an important part in shaping the way that guidance has been implemented locally. Learning from investigations will remain a key focus.
I have therefore agreed to provide £4.54m over two years to support health boards and the NHS Delivery Unit to take forward an important and complex programme of investigation work into cases of hospital-acquired Covid-19.
NHS Wales has developed and published a unique national framework in relation to patient safety incidents of hospital acquired Covid-19. The framework sets out the actions health boards should take in response to cases of hospital-acquired Covid-19 in relation to incident reporting, investigation and associated communications.
Health boards have already begun to implement the framework and the additional funding I am announcing today will allow this work to be delivered at pace.
The NHS Delivery Unit will oversee delivery of the framework and support health boards in increasing the pace of implementation.