Pathogens are present in every hospital, no matter its prestige. One in every 20 hospital patients will experience a hospital-acquired infection (HCAI), which is associated with high morbidity and mortality rates. Evidence-based approaches that protect patients and healthcare workers from an infection spread or outbreak are key to ensure safety. But, what is the difference between infection control and infection prevention?

Introduction to Infection Prevention and Control

In 1846, a Hungarian doctor named Ignaz Semmelweis noticed that women in a doctor-run maternity ward were dying of a childbed fever at a much higher rate than those in a midwife-run maternity ward. He deduced that germs from autopsies conducted by doctors were being spread to women undergoing childbirth since the doctors were going straight into maternity wards after performing autopsies. When Semmelweis implemented handwashing with chlorine, the rates of women dying after giving birth dropped dramatically.

While it took centuries for the adoption of hand hygiene to take hold, it was the beginning of the practice of infection prevention. Over time, scientists and clinicians have developed methods to prevent and control infections in hospitals, save lives and improve patient experiences and staff wellbeing. 


Download now: Guide to reducing modern Healthcare-Associated Infections

guide to reducing HCAIs

Infection prevention and control has been a high priority in England. However, new infections are in danger of spreading.

Download the guide to stay ahead of the short and long-term consequences of HCAIs and explore the latest approaches to integrated environmental infection prevention.

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The New National Standards of Healthcare Cleanliness 2021

Introduced in April 2021, the new National Standards of Healthcare Cleanliness 2021 apply to all healthcare environments and replace the 2007 NHS National Specifications for Cleanliness.

The Standards aim to encourage continuous improvement, and  combine mandates, guidance, recommendations and good practice. They seek to drive improvements while being flexible enough to meet the different and complex requirements of all healthcare organisations.

At Sodexo Healthcare, we’re taking learnings from COVID-19 and applying them to how we deal with other super bugs. We're developing our Infection Prevention processes and technologies, alongside implementation of the new National Standards, to evolve how we keep healthcare spaces clean and safe.


What is the main difference between infection control and infection prevention?

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An effective strategy to combat infections in hospitals must include both prevention and control measures —one cannot be done without the other. While healthcare entities are using the phrases together, as in “infection prevention and control,” or IPC, there are subtle differences between the two concepts that are helpful to differentiate.

Infection prevention includes processes, auditing, risk assessments, and ongoing education. Prevention is a proactive approach and focuses on the safeguards that stop infections from happening at all.

Common strategies under this umbrella include tracking safe hand hygiene methods, ensuring healthcare workers are vaccinated, implementing proper cleaning and environmental infection prevention services protocols, and providing access to ample personal protective equipment. Read the top five FAQs about an integrated Infection Prevention programme.

Infection control is reactionary and denotes the steps involved when managing an infection spread or outbreaks that have already occurred in the facility. This normally incorporates monitoring, contact tracing, and the reporting of an outbreak or exposure. It also may require isolation when exposure does occur. Effective infection control mitigates the risk of a known infection from spreading or impacting other patients, staff or caregivers.


Importance of infection preventionists

Since hospitals are focused on keeping hospital-acquired infection rates low, not only mitigating the spread, it makes sense that professional organizations have pushed to promote the term infection prevention over infection control.

Job titles of experts trained in infection prevention are reflecting this evolution, with most now referred to as Infection Preventionists (IPs). While all hospitals have strategies in place for both prevention and control, ultimately, the focus is on prevention.

When infections are identified, the efforts are centred on developing education to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Infection preventionists can conduct an analysis to determine where the gap in care occurred that led to the infection, helping influence how hospitals implement prevention and control programmes. Additional staff training is often provided so the same gap doesn’t happen again, helping protect healthcare workers.


Hospital staff collaboration in Infection Prevention and Control

Infection Preventionists should lead control assessments and monitor hospital-associated infections rates with an understanding of all the data, but they can also motivate and lead the entire workforce to mitigate infections at their facilities through control programmes.

“Infection prevention should be an all- hands-on-deck focus for hospital staff.”

Nurses and physicians are important stakeholders in the fight against HCAIs. Nurses are typically involved with the care and maintenance of invasive devices, which can be common sources of infections. They are present during insertions and should follow a checklist to ensure the proper control measures and steps are followed to maintain sterility during the procedure. During other steps in patient care, checklists should be followed to prevent infection or bacteria growth.

Hospital leaders focused on keeping HCAI rates low and improving patient outcomes are focussed on infection prevention, meaning their most effective Infection Preventionists are those who spend more of their time on prevention and less on control.

guide to reducing HCAIs

Infection control will always need to be an important component to hospital safety, and Infection Prevention experts will continue to look for ways to be proactive in their hospital’s approach to protecting patients.

Download the guide to stay ahead of the short and long-term consequences of HCAIs and explore the latest approaches to integrated environmental infection prevention.



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September 28, 2021

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