Overview

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This chapter describes the steps to be taken to minimize the risk of individuals acquiring infections during the course of care or treatment. Patients are most at risk but healthcare staff are also legally obliged to take reasonable and practicable precautions to protect themselves, other staff and anyone else who may be at risk in their workplace (Health and Safety at Work etc. Act [32]). The chapter describes the standard precautions that must be taken with all patients at all times regardless of their known infection status, and the additional precautions that need to be taken with some patients. Additional precautions can be required either:
  • because the patient is colonized or infected with micro‐organisms that may pose a particular risk to others, or
  • because they are particularly vulnerable to infection themselves.
Note that it is quite possible for additional precautions to be required for both these reasons with one patient – someone who is more vulnerable to infection may well acquire an infection that poses a risk to others.
The chapter also describes the specific precautions that must be taken during invasive procedures, in particular aseptic technique. Related issues such as the safe management of healthcare waste are also considered briefly.

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