Infection Control Legislation For Care Homes

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at how this legislation relates to infection prevention and control in care homes.

Relevant Legislation for Care Homes

If you manage a care home, you have a legal obligation to implement stringent infection prevention and control policies and procedures.

The Health and Social Care Act 2008 gives the Care Quality Commission powers to enforce best practice regulations in all health and adult social care sectors.

You can read the full wording of The Health and Social Care Act 2008 here.

The Health and Social Care Act 2008 only applies to England. There are different legislations in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. We are focusing on the English legislation in this post because it provides an effective introduction to how the regulatory systems works in the UK.

Regardless of the specific legislation that might apply, your obligations are effectively the same:  If you don’t prioritise your residents’ health and wellbeing, regulatory bodies can and will take action against you.

What Are Regulated Activities?

The Health and Social Care Act 2008 defines a “regulated activity” as “an activity of a prescribed kind”.

“Prescribed activity” essentially refers to activity that “involves, or is connected with, the provision of health or social care in, or in relation to, England”.

Regulation of Regulated Activities

The Act gives the Secretary of State powers to “impose requirements … necessary to secure that services provided … cause no avoidable harm to the persons for whom the services are provided.”

This includes making provisions and imposing requirements as to the:

  • Fitness of premises.
  • Keeping of records and accounts.
  • Management and training of anyone who works for the purpose of carrying out the regulated activity.

And crucially, the Act outlines that regulations “may make provision for the prevention and control of health care associated infections and may include such provision as … appropriate for the purpose of safeguarding individuals … from the risk, or any increased risk, of being exposed to health care associated infections or being made susceptible, or more susceptible, to them.”

The Act also gives the Secretary of State powers to issue codes of practice relating to health care associated infections.

What Happens If You Don’t Meet Infection Control Regulations?

The Health and Social Care Act 2008 makes it clear that you have a legal obligation to meet any codes of practice relating to infection prevention and control. If you do not meet these regulations, the Care Quality Commission can take action against you.

This might include:

  • Issuing notices outlining improvements you must make, and by when you should make them.
  • Imposing conditions or restrictions on your practices for a given time.
  • Putting special measures in place to supervise your activities.
  • Holding you to account through issuing cautions, fines, or even through prosecution.

You can read some examples of instances where the Care Quality Commission has used its powers of prosecution.

How To Meet Your Infection Control Regulatory Requirements

We’ve put together a number of guides to help you ensure effective infection control in care homes:

We specialise in supporting healthcare settings, including care homes, in the delivery of effective infection prevention and control policies:

Want to talk about how we can help you meet your infection control regulatory requirements? Get in touch to talk to one of our friendly experts today.

How To Manage an Outbreak of Infection in a Care Home

Any outbreak of infection in a care home must be considered a high-priority issue. Infections can easily spread in any location where people share facilities, and care home residents are high-risk groups: If they develop an infection, they’re more likely to experience severe symptoms.

What is an Outbreak?

The NHS defines an infectious disease outbreak as “when there are more people with the disease than you might normally expect.” There may be a different criteria for declaring an outbreak depending on the setting. When it comes to COVID-19 in a care home setting, for example, the NHS recommends declaring an outbreak when “there are two or more staff, residents, or visitors testing positive within 14 days of each other.”

If you don’t take steps to control an outbreak, the number of people infected could increase rapidly. This will have a huge impact on staff and resident wellbeing, and on the quality of care you’re able to deliver.

When is an Outbreak Over?

The NHS advises that you can declare an outbreak as over when 28 days pass without any new cases of the infection. Again, this advice is specific for COVID-19, but you can use a similar criteria for other infectious diseases in a care home.

What Are The Most Common Infections in Care Homes?

COVID-19 remains a major risk for care homes. But you must treat any outbreak of any infection just as seriously.

More than 50% of all care home infections can be linked to:

  • The influenza virus
  • Norovirus
  • Salmonella
  • Streptococcus Pyogenes

Read our full guide to the most common infections in care homes.

How To Manage an Outbreak of Infection in a Care Home

You should have dedicated policies and procedures covering your response to infection outbreaks in your care homes. These documents should be easily accessible for all staff, and you should review them periodically to ensure they reflect current risk levels and best practice guidance.

Your policy should include:

  • A list of the most common infections in care homes, along with some of the symptoms to look out for.
  • A definition of an “outbreak”. At what point will your outbreak response plan come into effect? Also define at what point you can declare that the outbreak’s passed.
  • Immediate response – what are the most critical steps to take once you’ve declared an outbreak? Think about who you’ll inform, how you’ll inform them, and what you’ll tell them. You’ll have to brief staff, inform residents, and contact their relatives too.
  • High-risk residents – some residents might have existing conditions that make them particularly vulnerable to infection, or they might be immunosuppressed or immunocompromised.
  • Your outbreak response policy should outline how you’ll shield your most high-risk residents, such as through zoning infected residents elsewhere in the care home and temporarily restricting any time spent in shared spaces.

Staff Training for Managing Outbreaks

Your staff should receive specialist training in managing outbreaks. The training should include:

Resident Zoning and Isolation

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, it became common practice to isolate any patients who might be carrying an infection risk, to reduce the chances for the infection to spread from person-to-person. Similarly, any staff members testing positive were advised to self-isolate.

Your care home infection outbreak response policy should consider resident zoning and isolation. Ideally, you should have single rooms available for emergency quarantine. And in the event of an outbreak, you should carry out an infection risk-assessment for every resident, reserving your emergency isolation and zoning procedures for the most high-risk individuals.

At the same time, you need to consider your residents’ physical and psychological wellbeing. How can you continue to deliver a high quality of care even while they’re in isolation? How will you keep the resident and their visitors informed throughout their quarantine? And crucially, how long will the isolation last? At what point will they be able to safely mix again with the rest of the care home population?

For more information, and for actionable tips for managing outbreaks in your care home, be sure to read the latest Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England guidance on infection control in care homes.


Cleaning is an essential part of infection prevention and control. Pathogens can survive on surfaces for hours, or even days. So regularly cleaning your care home environment can significantly reduce the risk of cross-infection.

You should already have cleaning policies and procedures in place for your care home, outlining where to clean, how to clean it, what products to use, and how often to do so. Your cleaning policy should pay particular attention to any area of your care home where residents share facilities, along with any area where food is prepared or consumed.

In the event of an outbreak, you should implement even more robust cleaning procedures. This might involve carrying out more regular cleaning or switching to using specialist cleaning products that can kill viruses and bacteria on surfaces.

Be sure to read our full guide to effective environmental decontamination for infection control.

Air Purification

As well as lingering on surfaces, the viruses and bacteria that cause infections and outbreaks in care homes can also be airborne.

Good air filtration can actively contribute to infection prevention in care homes, while helping to prevent the spread of infection during an outbreak. Air filtration can even help prevent the spread of COVID-19. One study found that an air filtration system successfully removed almost all traces of the airborne virus in a quarantine ward.

Our range of HealthProtect air purifiers are specifically designed for healthcare facilities such as care homes. They can deliver complete air filtration every 12.5 minutes, trapping and killing up to 99% of viruses and bacteria – including those responsible for all of the most common outbreaks in care homes.

We can advise on effective infection outbreak management in your care home. As well as supplying specialist healthcare air purifiers, we also stock a full range of infection control products, including the Virusolve+ range of one-step cleaner, sanitiser and disinfectant solutions.

Get in touch to discuss care home infection outbreak management with one of our friendly experts.

What is Infection Control in Care Homes?

When it comes to infection, elderly people and other care home residents are high-risk groups. This means that, if they catch an infection, they’re more likely to experience severe symptoms.

This isn’t the only reason why infections are a major concern in care homes. Infections can easily spread in any setting where people share facilities. Plus, given how vulnerable residents are to infection, any outbreak is likely to lead to mass hospitalisation. The health service is already overburdened and facing a serious backlog. An outbreak in a care home could place further strain on a system that already seems stretched to breaking point.

What is Infection Control in Care Homes?

Infection control in care homes means taking the time to understand the common infections, and how they’re spread, before acting to prevent this spread as much as possible. In this post, we’ll explore some of the key principles of infection control in care homes.

What Are The Most Common Infections in Care Homes?

The most common infections in care homes include:

  • Flus and colds
  • Norovirus and other stomach bugs
  • Salmonella

And of course, care homes must now contend with seasonal variants of Covid-19. Care homes were hit particularly hard throughout the 2020 pandemic. And though the latest variants are not as deadly as the initial few, they still present a significant risk to care home residents.

Read our full guide to common infections in care homes. This guide also explores, in greater depth, the link between care home outbreaks and hospital bed shortages.

An Essential Introduction to Infection Control in Care Homes

Infection control in care homes begins with understanding the common infections and their symptoms. Some care home residents may be unable to communicate that they’re feeling bad. Others might be unwilling to discuss their health, as they might not want to make a fuss. It might be up to you and your staff to spot infections, and to act accordingly.

So look out for some key symptoms of the most common care home infections:

  • Coughs, sneezes, and runny noses.
  • Breathing difficulties.
  • Irritated eyes.
  • Skin conditions, including rashes and blisters.
  • Vomiting and nausea.
  • Shivering (which could indicate a fever).
  • Loss of appetite and low energy levels.

Invest in Staff Training

Every member of staff should be able to spot the signs of infection. They should also have a thorough understanding of how infections spread, as this will help them adopt measures that can help prevent the spread.

In short, coughs and sneezes spread infections directly. But infectious diseases can also spread in indirect ways – such as when two residents use the same utensil, or item of furniture. Read our full guide to how communicable diseases spread.

Infection Control Policies and Procedures

Your care home should have dedicated policies and procedures in place for managing infections. These should be in writing, and they should be reviewed routinely, and easily accessible to all members of staff.

Here are some things you should include in your infection control policies and procedures:

  • Reporting – If a member of staff suspects they’ve spotted an infection, what immediate action should they take? Who should they report to, and what can they do in the short-term to reduce the risk of cross-infection?
  • Cleaning – As viruses and bacteria can linger on surfaces for hours, stringent cleaning procedures are an essential part of infection control in care homes. Your policy should outline the specific cleaning procedures for every area of your care home, paying particular attention to any area where residents gather and share facilities, and any area where food’s prepared and served.
  • Zoning – You may have to isolate any residents who catch an infection, to reduce the risks of cross-infection. Your policy should outline how you manage this process. How will you inform the resident? How will you continue to deliver the same quality of care during their quarantine? And how will you inform their friends and relatives?
  • Personal protection equipment (PPE) – Your policy should outline what sort of PPE your staff wear, and when they wear it. It should also define procedures for storing PPE, and for both applying it and taking it off to reduce the risk of cross-infection. Read our introduction to appropriate PPE use.

Hand Hygiene and Cough & Sneeze Etiquette

Finally, there are two strategies that both staff and residents can adopt to prevent and control infections in care homes:

  • Hand Hygiene – Staff should thoroughly wash their hands at numerous key points: before interacting with a resident, after interacting with a resident, and after handling any potentially contaminated items. Residents too can be encouraged to wash their hands as often as possible, including before meals and after using the toilet.
  • Cough and sneeze etiquette – Staff should encourage residents to cover their noses and mouths whenever they need to sneeze or cough. You could provide ample tissues, with lots of bins so that residents can “catch it, bin it, kill it.” And of course, you should encourage residents to wash their hands immediately after coughing or sneezing.

Support For Infection Control in Care Homes

At Cairn Technology, we specialise in supporting healthcare settings, including care homes, deliver effective infection prevention and control policies.

Here’s how we can help you stop the spread of infectious diseases in your care home:

Want to talk about how we can help prevent infections and improve the air quality in your care home? Get in touch to talk to one of our infection control experts today.