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BACKGROUND: Improving behaviour in infection prevention and control (IPC) practice remains a challenge, and understanding the determinants of healthcare workers' (HCWs) behaviour is fundamental to develop effective and sustained behaviour change interventions. AIM: To identify behaviours of HCWs that facilitated non-compliance with IPC practices, focusing on how appraisals of IPC duties and social and environmental circumstances shaped and influenced non-compliant behaviour. This study aimed to: (1) identify how HCWs rationalized their own behaviour and the behaviour of others; (2) highlight challenging areas of IPC compliance; and (3) describe the context of the working environment that may explain inconsistencies in IPC practices. METHODS: Clinical staff at a National Health Service hospital group in London, UK were interviewed between December 2010 and July 2011 using qualitative methods. Responses were analysed using a thematic framework. FINDINGS: Three ways in which HCWs appraised their behaviour were identified through accounts of IPC policies and practices: (1) attribution of responsibilities, with ambiguity about responsibility for certain IPC practices; (2) prioritization and risk appraisal, which demonstrated a divergence in values attached to some IPC policies and practices; and (3) hierarchy of influence highlighted that traditional clinical roles challenged work relationships. CONCLUSIONS: Overall, behaviours are not entirely independent of policy rules, but often an amalgamation of local normative practices, individual preferences and a degree of professional isolation.

Original publication




Journal article


J Hosp Infect

Publication Date





126 - 134


Attribution of responsibility, Healthcare workers' behaviour, Healthcare-associated infection, Infection prevention and control, Non-compliance, Risk appraisal, Adult, Attitude of Health Personnel, Cross Infection, Female, Guideline Adherence, Humans, Infection Control, London, Male, Middle Aged, Nurse Midwives, Nurses, Pharmacists, Physicians, Qualitative Research