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The 'Rediscovery' of Infection, 1957-1970

A black and white photograph of Pre-set Tray systemPre-set Tray System, Edinburgh, c. 1964The fourth period, the era of antibiotic resistance, dates from after the 1957 flu pandemic to 1970, and sees a ‘rediscovery’ of infection. 

Rising rates of antibiotic resistance and hospital cross-infection resulted in a renewed emphasis on hygienic practice, risk assessment and surveillance.

Through specialist infection control committees consisting of bacteriologists, clinicians and nursing staff, hospitals once again emphasised the importance of the hospital environment, as Lister and Nightingale had one hundred years earlier. 

1958 St Thomas’ and the Royal Infirmaries at Edinburgh and Glasgow establish infection control committees to tackle hospital infection. Central Sterile Supply Departments established soon after ensure instruments, dressings and other items are sterile before distribution around the hospital

1959 The Medical Research Council publishes The Control of Staphylococcal Infection in Hospitals and distribute it to hospitals across the country. It recommends that hospitals establish Infection Control Committees and appoint a dedicated infection control officer 

1959 Brendan Moore, a microbiologist in Exeter, is the first appointed Infection Control Nurse 

1960 Disposable rubber gloves start becoming commonly used in hospitals

1963 The Nuffield Provincial Hospitals Trust publishes Central Sterile Supply Principles and Practice as a guide for hospitals willing to establish Central Sterile Supply Departments (CSSDs)

1963 Ian Phillips, bacteriologist, is appointed the first infection control officer at St Thomas’ Hospital

1964 The Theatre Service Centre at Royal Infirmary Edinburgh formally opens and the Pre-Set Tray System of surgical instruments is formally launched. The system is widely adopted by other British hospitals.

1966 The Ministry of Health publishes the Salmon Report. It draws on theories of scientific management to recommend restructuring of nursing hierarchies within hospitals, effectively ending the traditional role of Matron and replacing it with a Chief Nursing Officer

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