Hands-on approach to bug-free hospitals

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Are your hands pristine? A new campaign is being launched this week to remind patients and visitors that it’s ok to ask if health staff have cleaned their hands.

It is on the way at the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust where staff are determined to keep up levels of protection – and keep down levels of infection.

Trust director of nursing, patient safety and quality Sue Smith said: “It is a tribute to the hard work of all our staff that we have had no cases of blood-borne MRSA infections since February 2011.

“Many people will have heard of clostridium difficile (CDiff). As its name suggest it’s a bug that’s difficult to treat. It often affects people who are taking certain antibiotics or have a reduced immune system and of course that applies to many of our patients.

“The CDiff bug produces spores – microscopic particles which fly around in the air. They land on surfaces and can live for a long time. They’re impossible to see but if they’re picked up on people’s skin or on something like an open packet of biscuits on the bed table they can make a patient quite ill.

“Our CDiff rates are the low but we want to see them reduce even further. Everyone in the trust is working hard to do this and it’s truly a team effort.”

She highlighted how trust doctors had reviewed the antibiotic prescribing policy to “ensure we protect patients as much as we can but they still get the treatment they need”.

The trust estates staff were “helping us move one ward at a time so the empty ward can be decorated and cleaned,” said Sue.

She added: “Our domestic team is using special machines to pump hydrogen peroxide vapour into the rooms to kill off any spores.

“Our infection prevention and control staff are out and about on the wards every day to ensure the highest standards of hand hygiene are kept at all times.

“We know that one of the most effective ways of stopping infections spreading is by cleaning our hands and we’re launching this campaign to say to patients and visitors if you think we’ve forgotten or you haven’t seen us clean our hands before we touch you then it’s ok to ask.

“Tackling the spread of infection is a team effort and we’d like our visitors and patients to be part of that team.”

Patients can help by asking their visitors to clean their hands before and after they touch them and keeping their bed tables, lockers and other surfaces free of clutter so domestic staff can clean them easily.

Visitors can help by:

● Cleaning their hands before they come into the ward to visit and when they leave;

● Cleaning their hands when asked to do so by ward staff;

● Limiting the number of visitors to two at the bedside at a time;

● Not coming to visit if they are ill themselves. This is especially important if they have had a tummy bug themselves within the last 72 hours.

Sue added: “People can expect to see posters around our hospitals reminding people that they can ask if we’ve cleaned our hands but also reminding them of how they can play their part in helping us keep their loved one safe.”