‘Project ICE’ to help improve infection control in NHS

Categories: School of Health and Society

A new tool based on military planning processes is helping NHS Trusts to manage and prepare for outbreaks of infection in hospitals.

The idea behind the new tool (known as the Infection Control Estimate, or ICE) was developed last year to help make sure that there was a standard response to outbreaks of infectious illness such as Covid-19 across the NHS. 

Now, one of the team who came up with the original idea, Matthew Wynn, Lecturer in Adult Nursing at the University of Salford, is leading a project to develop the concept and implement the process with clinical partners in the Northern Care Alliance (NCA) and Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust. 

This has included the development of an Excel based prototype for managing outbreaks. The ICE tool asks a series of questions to gather information about the outbreak, and then walks staff through the process of putting interventions in place and evaluating their effectiveness.

The tool is believed to be the first of its kind to bring together all the data related to the management of an outbreak, including information on what interventions were used, how the disease spread, and how effective the control measures were. It also provides a clear structure to support staff responsible for putting outbreak interventions in place.

Matthew, who is also a reservist with 207 (Manchester) Field Hospital, explains: “This tool provides a fantastic new resource for NHS Trusts and we hope it will help improve infection control practice going into the future. Being able to implement the process with clinical partners has given us some really valuable feedback, and we are keen to continue making improvements by developing the tool into a full software package.”

The new process was used for the first time to manage an outbreak of Covid-19 and was received very positively by NCA staff who have taken the lead on implementing the tool in clinical practice.

Image: The prototype tool showing graphical output of cases and interventions from a mock outbreak

The prototype tool showing graphical output of cases and interventions from a mock outbreak

Linda Swanson, Director of Nursing Infection Control for the NCA, said: “The Northern Care Alliance is delighted to have been part of the collaborative work with the ICE project team at the University of Salford. This tool has the potential to bring rapid resolution to outbreaks of infectious diseases, support clinical teams to effectively introduce proven control methods, and ultimately help to keep our patients safe.” 

Sandra Brady, Infection Prevention and Control Specialist, explained: “Although it has been a huge task, I am excited that we have created something that can be so easily applied and makes outbreaks and the learnings from them so visual. We believe that having this visual representation of an outbreak will reach our audience and staff more efficiently and effectively. It also saves time as everything is included in one document.”

It is hoped that using the ICE tool will help evaluate outbreak management to see what interventions are most effective, and how processes can be improved in future. 

Dr Ryan George, Clinical Scientist at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust said: “Not only is this going to be useful from a documentation perspective, but review of the captured data will allow key insights into causes of outbreaks and risk factors, and will allow us to determine how successful commonly used interventions actually are.”

In future the tool could also help improve communication between clinical teams and support future training efforts in relation to outbreak management and infection control, in both hospital and community settings.

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