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Five Reminders About Hand Hygiene and Personal Protection

If you work within the healthcare industries, you will be aware of the steps that you and those working with you should be taking to ensure hand hygiene is up to scratch and everyone is being protected from infection. However, it is always good to have a reminder so that all best practices are in place for the benefit of patients and staff.

Follow the WHO guidelines for hand hygiene

Everyone working within healthcare is aware of how important hand hygiene is, but this is something that is not always put into action.  All staff should be trained in hand decontamination procedures, which includes hands being decontaminated before and after patient contact and immediately following contact with any bodily fluids.

Hands should be washed and sanitised following the World Health Organisation guidelines for hand hygiene.

Regular hand hygiene needs to be made easy

Your practice needs to make it easy for staff to wash their hands at the appropriate times. Hand wash stations, which have liquid hand wash and water, should be placed in areas of easy access and hand sanitiser points should be situated at entrances to rooms and near where GPs are treating patients. It is also important to note that hand sanitisers should not be used to remove visible dirt or contamination from hands, they are purely designed to be used for disinfection.

Hand drying is also very important. Bacteria spreads much more quickly on wet hands so hands need to be dried thoroughly. Providing paper towels next to wash stations helps ensure this occurs.

Ensure hands are properly cared for

Fingernails should be kept short and clean and hand creams should be used regularly to protect skin and put moisture back after the drying effect of regular hand washing and the use of antibacterial sanitisers. All hand jewellery must also be removed.

Make gloves a priority

The CQC provides an example of a service provider that had staff telling the inspection team that they were having problems obtaining new gloves, as the person responsible for the supply had either refused to replenish them or asked them to only wear one glove at a time.  The CQC therefore judged that patients were not being cared for in a clean and hygienic environment and were not protected from the risk of infection because staff members were not always wearing protective gloves.

It is extremely important that disposable gloves are worn at the appropriate times and in the appropriate way.  Gloves need to meet EU legislation, which means they have been tested to meet certain physical standards.  Gloves also need to be removed immediately and disposed of correctly. If they have come in contact with bodily fluids they need to be disposed of in a clinical waste bag.

It is also imperative that staff members are aware that even if they ‘double-glove’, needle stick injuries can still occur therefore all the appropriate precautions still need to be taken.

Personal protection equipment must be used

PPE is any equipment used to protect staff members when they are exposed to greater risk. For example, an apron if there is a risk of an employee being exposed to bodily fluids. Appropriate supplies of PPE should be available to staff onsite and respiratory equipment must also be provided where required. All staff should be trained in the use of PPE and this training must be recorded as evidence.

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