This scoping review sought evidence about organisational and management factors affecting infection control in general hospital settings. A literature search yielded a wide range of studies, systematic reviews and reports, but high quality direct evidence was scant. The majority of studies were observational and the standard of reporting was generally inadequate. Positive leadership at ward level and above appears to be a prerequisite for effective action to control infection, although the benefits of good clinical leadership are diffused by supervision of large numbers of staff. Senior clinical leaders need a highly visible presence and clear role boundaries and responsibilities. Team stability and morale are linked to improved patient outcomes. Organisational mechanisms for supporting training, appraisal and clinical governance are important determinants of effective practice and successful change. Rates of infection have been linked to workload, in terms of nurse staffing, bed occupancy and patient turnover. The organisational characteristics identified in the review should be considered risk factors for infection. They cannot always be eliminated or avoided completely, but appropriate assessment will enable targeted action to protect patients. (C) 2009 The Hospital Infection Society. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.