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There’s no doubt that reducing the number of gram-negative healthcare-associated infections is worthwhile: they cause illness and, in some case, death, some can be extremely disruptive and difficult to eradicate in hospitals, and there is a clear government target to halve them.

But getting information on how this is progressing has proved to be more than a little difficult. After much to-ing and fro-ing between NHS England, the Department of Health and Social Care and the UK Health Security Agency HSJ can report it seems that progress since 2016-17 has been somewhat limited.

The number of infections has fallen – though only by about 10 per cent and the target of a 25 per cent reduction by March this year is likely to be missed. There’s some doubt that the 2024 target will be hit as well.

But, perhaps more worryingly, there are still doubts about the data behind this. The baseline does not include all healthcare-associated infections, according to the DHSC, and work is ongoing on whether and how it could be “rebased.”

Given a target for reducing gram-negative infections was first announced in 2016 – and has been repeatedly moved – fussing over the baseline now seems quite remarkable.

New hospitals plan cemented

For the first time, the government has indicated which “new hospitals” will be built first under its flagship NHS estates modernisation programme.

Documents published by the New Hospital Programme reveal three projects in Dorset and one in Devon will be the first to agree construction contracts with builders.

Although signing contracts is not quite the same as putting spades in the ground, it is likely that the schemes which agree deals first will also get cracking on construction soon after.

The Dorset and Devon schemes – which are expansions and refurbishments, rather than “new hospitals” – are expected to sign the dotted line by September.

Meanwhile, NHP has also announced plans to procure two “delivery partners” and a long-term “commercial partner”.

These three contracts total £550m, which will have management consultants licking their lips.

The amount £550m is – incidentally – roughly the same as what it used to cost to build a new hospital, before a combination of Brexit, the pandemic and inflation pushed up prices significantly.

NHP is set to launch procurements for these partners this and next year. In the meantime, other trusts in the programme are patiently waiting to turn their plans into realities.

Also on today

In news, Shruti Sheth Trivedi reveals the areas with the strongest and weakest primary care, and this week’s Health Check podcast says the NHS has been told to scale back infection control measures, so what will this mean for staff and patients?