Patient safety

Improving patient safety by prevention and control of healthcare-associated infections

Healthcare-associated infections (HCAI), often referred to as nosocomial infections, affect an estimated 1 in 10 patients and lead to considerable increase in illness, mortality and costs. These infections are not constrained by national boundaries and can rapidly spread between countries as evidenced by international spread of MRSA as well as SARS. Stepping up action in this area may be urgent also in light of the importance of infection control during a possible pandemic to contain or at least delay the spread of the influenza-virus.

Other challenges that make action particularly pressing are the increased patient mobility, the ageing society, rising public expectations and the advances in medical treatment. Health systems across Europe face common challenges as they adapt to constant developments in medical science. Although these health systems are primarily the responsibility of the Member States, cooperation at European level has great potential to bring benefits both to individual patients and to health systems overall.

It is to be expected that the HCAI will constitute an increasing burden of disease in European societies. The Commission believes it may be appropriate to make recommendations in the area of infection control and is therefore developing a document that will form the basis for such recommendations.

This document is being drafted carefully with the help of an international group of experts and incorporates comments from the surveillance authorities of the Community network on communicable disease established by Decision 2119/98/EC and those which were made in the course of a public consultation on a draft documentimage
in December 2005 and January 2006.