The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) was established in 2007. HIQA is an independent authority established to drive high-quality and safe care for health and social care services in Ireland.
HIQA’s mandate extends across a range of public, private and voluntary sector services. Reporting to the Minister for Health and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, HIQA’s role is to develop standards, inspect and review health and social care services and support informed decisions on how services are delivered.
HIQA operates under the Health Act 2007, which sets out the functions which the Authority is to carry out. HIQA has responsibility for setting standards for healthcare services, and monitoring compliance with those standards. It also regulates facilities providing care for the elderly and those with disabilities, and has a role with regard to inspecting some of the social care services which are accessed by children to determine if they are meeting the relevant National Standards. Section 9 of the Act sets out the grounds under which HIQA may undertake an investigation into a particular service, or may be requested to undertake such an investigation by the Minister for Health.
Following a statutory consultation process and Ministerial approval, HIQA published specific national standards for community health and social care services in Ireland (including nursing and residential homes), which cover infection prevention and control and antimicrobial stewardship. The standards outline 20 standard statements and cover important areas such as communicating well with people who use community health or social care services, involving people in making decisions about their care, providing care in a clean and safe environment and prescribing antimicrobial medication in a safe manner.
Standard 3.4 of this document sets out measures to ensure that outbreaks of infection (including influenza infection) are identified, managed, controlled and documented in a timely and effective manner that such premises are required to implement. These measures are as follows:
- Staff report to their line manager any signs or symptoms of infection in individuals or groups of people or residents to facilitate prevention, early detection and control the spread of infection.
- Staff know who to contact for advice in the event of a suspected or confirmed outbreak and are encouraged to ask for advice from colleagues, such as a community infection prevention and control nurse, the local Department of Public Health and or a consultant microbiologist, if uncertain about the best course of action.
- Any suspected or confirmed outbreaks of infection are promptly notified to the medical officer of health in the relevant Department of Public Health, in line with legislation. Registered providers of designated centres are also required to report outbreaks of notifiable diseases to HIQA.
- All facilities where care is delivered have a documented outbreak management plan appropriate to the services provided, detailing the action to be taken in the event of an outbreak of infection, in line with relevant national guidelines where they exist.
- Staff clearly communicate with and support people affected by an outbreak in a timely and effective manner.
- All staff implement outbreak control measures as soon as possible to help reduce the impact of the outbreak. Consideration is given to the impact of visiting restrictions on residents and their families.
- A nominated person from the residential care service liaises with specialist staff, such as the community infection prevention and control nurse and the local Department of Public Health, and provides all information necessary to assess and control the outbreak.