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Hand hygiene alone “is not enough to fight HCAIs”

30 July 2008

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An independent report commissioned by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has warned that healthcare associated infections (HCAIs) will not be reduced by hand hygiene alone.

Strong leadership, appropriate staffing levels and better management of staff workloads should be just as important as hand hygiene and environmental cleanliness in the battle to reduce HCAIs such as MRSA and C difficile, the report by analysts at King’s College, London said.

“Much has been written about what patients, visitors and healthcare professionals can be doing as individuals to reduce infection rates, hand-hygiene being a prime example,” said Dr Peter Carter, the RCN’s chief executive and general secretary.

“However, there has been very little research on what impact the actions of organisations and management can have on infection control.”

He said that there was rarely a single cause for outbreak or infection, or a simple cure, but by increasing awareness of the risk factors leading to outbreaks of infection, health professionals would be better placed to tackle the causes.

“This report suggests that infection rates appear to be lower where there is strong leadership and where workloads are manageable,” Dr Carter added.

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Royal College of Nursing

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“As a relative of a patient that has recently died from C Diff, I find it extremely insulting to read that C Diff can and should be associated with hand hygiene and personal infection control. That the whole process of HCW, relatives/visitors and patients should be able to reduce the outbreaks of C Diff and MRSA. It is clearly, in our experience, down to numerous variables – many of which are down to the management structure, strong leadership, education and training, but also down to personal professionalism to the care and treatment of a patient.” – Mike, north west.