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Research project: Somebody else’s problem: Perceptions of prevalence of MRSA colonization in patients transferred between hospital and care home - Dormant - Dormant

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Healthcare acquired infections represent a major public health problem. Surveillance and enhanced preventative strategies are key ways of addressing the problem. However problems persist. In this study we explore how attribution biases may create barriers to effective action so that even in the face of accurate information about infection and transmission rates, it may be perceived as largely ‘somebody else's problem'.


Meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is endemic within the United Kingdom health care sector. Recent campaigns to reduce health care-associated infection have rested on increasing staff accountability and ownership of the problem and its solutions. However, the existence of reservoirs of colonization in the community now creates ambiguity about sources, which may undermine preventative strategies.


The theoretical framework of causal attribution was applied to explore staff biases in perceptions and effects on infection control behaviours on both sides of the hospital/care home interface. Forty-four staff from 1 acute care hospital and 53 staff from 6 care homes estimated prevalence, risk, and sources of MRSA. Focus groups (6 care home and 8 hospital) were used to elicit group perceptions.


Staff tended to attribute the causes of MRSA to external (not self) human factors including patient risk factors and poor infection control practices of others. Teams tend to attribute their "successes" in infection control to dispositional attributions (good team policy and performance) and attribute "lapses" to situational factors (client group, patient movement, work pressures).Conclusion Variations in information needs, ownership, and infection control practices could be addressed by better interorganizational working and support for staff teams to assess their own responses to the problem.

Associated research themes

Workforce: re-configurations and enabling and measuring workforce effectiveness

Related research groups

Health Work and Systems

Key Publication

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