Simple and effective: how hand hygiene is at the heart of keeping patients infection free

Members of staff enjoying the awareness week

Infection rates at University Hospital Southampton have plummeted in recent years, helped in large part by the increased awareness and education around the importance of hand hygiene. Keeping your hands clean is the simplest and single most effective way to prevent the spread of illness.

In an effort to ensure those infection rates remain low, the infection prevention team will be out in force this week as part of an international initiative to raise awareness of the importance of hand hygiene.

The team has been hitting the wards as part of hand hygiene awareness week, chatting to patients and staff about how important it is to keep your hands clean. Armed with a lucky dip of hand hygiene goodies, the team are running various awareness events and reminding people to wash their hands.

Dr Graeme Jones

As the hospital’s lead consultant in infection prevention and control, microbiologist Dr Graeme Jones said it was vitally important that hand hygiene remains at the forefront of people’s minds.

“It is so simple but easy to forget so our job is to raise awareness and make it easy and accessible for people to adopt good hand hygiene. That means having visible reminders and hand gel dispensers at strategic points alongside regular awareness events like this one.”

Peter Meacham

Patient Peter Meacham, a retired headteacher from Weymouth, was visited by infection prevention staff Julie Brooks and Penny Doherty as part of the awareness event. He said: “I think it is really important that we get to talk and feedback to staff about what our experiences are like. I think hand washing is obviously very important and I have found the step-by-step diagrams really useful in ensuring hand washing is as thorough as possible.”

Along with dedicated awareness events, peer audits along with patient surveys are used to reinforce the message that good hand hygiene is one of the single most effective ways of stopping infection spreading.

That approach has seen figures in the most serious of infections fall dramatically in the last ten years. In 2005/6 there were 92 cases of MRSA bloodstream infection contracted at University Hospital Southampton, compared to the two that were recorded in the last year. Rates of C-difficile infection have also dropped with 741 cases confirmed in 2005/6 falling to 34 cases in 2017/18.

Find out more about hand hygiene on our preventing infection pages.
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Posted on Wednesday 2 May 2018