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Clean Hands, Hygiene Vital In Tackling Infection

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Clean hands are the most effective tool in the fight against healthcare-associated infections.

That was the key message from Health Minister Michael McGimpsey as he launched the regional ‘cleanyourhands’ campaign to highlight the importance of hand hygiene amongst healthcare staff and visitors.

The ‘cleanyourhands’ campaign has been developed by the National Patient Safety Agency and has been adapted for Northern Ireland. Campaign materials include posters for wards, signs to direct visitors to hand-cleaning facilities, point of care prompts for staff, a patient leaflet and a staff handbook.

Launching the campaign at the Mater Hospital in Belfast, Michael McGimpsey said, “This campaign is about reinforcing the message that good hand hygiene is absolutely essential in the prevention of infection. Staff and visitors are being reminded that the benefits of the simple act of cleaning your hands must not be underestimated and that by just taking a minute to stop and clean your hands, you are helping to prevent and control infections.

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“Although we will never be able to totally eradicate healthcare associated infections, we must do all we can to minimise the risk. Hand washing must become a habit that is integral to healthcare culture and openly discussed. Patients should be encouraged to feel comfortable to ask staff if they have washed their hands before treating them. Equally, staff should also ensure that visitors wash their hands and should provide advice where necessary.”

The regional hand hygiene campaign is one of a number of measures the minister has recently introduced to reduce healthcare associated infections, along with a regional visiting policy, a dress code for staff and unannounced hospital hygiene inspections.

The minister has also invested Euro 9million in clean and safer care and last September, set the challenging target to reduce MRSA by 10% and C.difficile by 20% by March 2009.

The minister continued: “Each year hundreds of thousands of people are treated in hospitals across Northern Ireland, and their safety and care is an absolute priority for me and all those working throughout the service. We all have a shared responsibility not to put patients at risk. By making hand hygiene a personal priority, each of us can play our part in making healthcare safer for all patients.”

The ‘cleanyourhands’ campaign will initially appear in hospitals throughout Northern Ireland. A further campaign for community healthcare facilities such as GP practices and nursing homes is currently being developed.

The campaign is also strongly linked to the World Health Organisation’s Global Patient Safety Challenge: Clean Care is Safer Care, where the Department and wider HSC have signed up to making infection prevention and control a priority.