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Foreword Dear colleagues, Healthcare associated infections (HCAIs), like MRSA, cost the health service around £1 billion per year and cause our patients unnecessary suffering and anxiety. We know that not all infections are avoidable, but a large proportion of them are. For this reason alone we should set an organisation-wide target that focuses work towards a goal of ‘no avoidable infections’. NHS staff are working hard to halve the number of MRSA bloodstream infections nationally by 2008. The Saving Lives delivery programme was launched for acute hospitals in June 2005, and the Essential Steps sets the framework for your organisation to work towards this target too. Reducing HCAIs requires the commitment of every member of the team, with owners, managers, clinicians and frontline staff realising their contribution. The tools and techniques within Essential Steps work across organisations, wards and teams. The self-assessment tool allows you to undertake an evaluation of your current practices against the guidance to which your organisations should conform. This will enable you to produce a balanced scorecard that highlights (through red, amber or green status) which areas require the greatest focus and review. On completion of this self-assessment, you will produce future actions that allow you to monitor progress against agreed milestones. The useful resources within the tool highlight the guidance and resources that inform the delivery programme. Underpinning the organisational-wide action plan are Essential Steps, the critical interventions which, if implemented, will increase reliability of key clinical procedures and care processes, thus reducing the risk of infection and increasing patient and service user safety. The review tools that accompany these encourage feedback to clinicians and frontline staff to ensure that all elements of care are given when needed. This programme is about continuous improvement. You can download additional copies of programme tools at: We are inviting users of these tools to sign and return the enclosed sign up form to pledge their commitment to increasing patient and service user safety and reducing infections. We will provide organisations with a certificate to demonstrate their commitment to raising the standard of care provided by their organisation and urge chief executives, owners and managers to sign up and work towards `no avoidable infections’.

Prof Sir Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer

Prof Christine Beasley CBE, Chief Nursing Officer


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