Author(s): Ruth R White, J M P Smith
Background Infection control is an important aspect of quality of care. General practitioners (GPs) have a high throughput of patients, some attending because of a communicable disease, others for investigations or minor operations. This situation provides an opportunity for the spread of infections. This study looked at the development of practice policies on infection control and the need for further information and guidelines. Methods A postal questionnaire was sent to 117 practices in a single Family Health Services Authority. The questionnaire contained sections to be completed by a GP and a practice nurse in each surgery. Results A response rate of 74.5 per cent was obtained. Of the practices replying, 85 per cent did not have a written infection control policy. Sterilization of instruments was carried out in over 90 per cent of surgeries. Autoclaves were used in almost four-fifths of these practices; most did not have any written procedures covering their use. Few practices provided information on procedures for infected patients or staff. A third of practices did not have a needlestick policy, and sharps incidents were not recorded in 42 per cent of surgeries. Three-quarters of practices said that they would welcome guidelines on infection control. Half of the practice nurses thought that more training on infection control was required. Conclusions The need for more training and the implications of the information from the study on the development and implementation of guidelines are discussed. Recommendations are made which aim to increase the awareness of this issue by means of guidelines and training focused on practice nurses.