Good hand hygiene has marked impact on infection rates, study proves

New report shows increased use of soap and alcohol gel reduces MRSA and C.difficile

Healthcare services in the UK have gone from being ‘the dirty man of Europe’ to world leaders in infection control, a new report published this week claims.

The document, published on the BMJ website, is based on a study of hand hygiene in hospitals in England and Wales.

It shows that the Department of Health’s Clean Your Hands Campaign , which was introduced in June 2005, had a significant positive impact on levels of MRSA and C.difficile . It also saw antibacterial hand gel use rocketing by 300%.

It's been a real British success story. We've gone from being the dirty man of Europe to being world leaders

The campaign, which was later dropped, led to the introduction of alcohol gel dispensers by all patient beds, together with posters reminding staff to wash their hands and regular checks on hand hygiene compliance.

The report states that, by 2008, the amount of soap and alcohol gel being purchased by hospitals trebled, going from 22ml per patient per day, to 60ml. Over the same period, rates of MRSA more than halved and C.difficile infections fell by more than 40%. Increased use of soap, in particular, was found to reduce rates of C.difficile infection dramatically; while more regular hand gel use had a positive impact on MRSA prevalence.

Commenting on the findings, one of the report authors, Dr Sheldon Stone, from the Royal Free university College London Medical School, said: “It's been a real British success story. We've gone from being the dirty man of Europe to being world leaders. What we need to do is keep up the momentum and stay at the forefront of world hand hygiene.”

And the report concludes: “The campaign was associated with sustained increases in hospital procurement of alcohol rub and soap, which the results suggest has an important role in reducing rates of some healthcare associated infections. National interventions for infection control undertaken in the context of a high-profile political drive can reduce selected healthcare-associated infections.”

The findings have been welcomed by the Department of Health. A spokesman said: “The Clean Your Hands campaign was successful in its aim to highlight the importance of good hand hygiene practice across the NHS. We know this has been successful. The challenge now is to ensure the NHS embeds the good practice highlighted in the campaign to achieve its ambition of wiping out avoidable healthcare-associated infections.”

Click here for more on the report

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