Q: Should targets be set for hand hygiene compliance? If so, what level of increase would be good?
A: Any such targets should first be realistic and attainable, in view of the long-term efforts required to bring about improvements in hand hygiene behaviour. Aiming for complete compliance in the short term would obviously be difficult to achieve in facilities where initial compliance rate may be less than 40%. What should be aimed for is the establishment of a baseline, and a steady, sustainable, month by month, year on year improvement.
Q: How important are clean hands in the overall patient safety agenda?
A: Hand hygiene contributes significantly to keeping patients safe. It is a simple, low-cost action to prevent the spread of many of the microbes that cause HCAIs. While hand hygiene is not the only measure to counter HCAI, compliance with it alone can dramatically enhance patient safety. Improving the hand hygiene of healthcare staff is one of the most effective ways of preventing and reducing the spread of healthcare associated infection. The selection of hand hygiene as the first pillar to promote the Global Patient Safety Challenge of the WHO World Alliance for Patient Safety signifies its importance in the patient safety agenda.
Q: What about patients’ and visitors’ hand hygiene?
A: Patients and visitors should be encouraged to perform hand hygiene on:
- entry to a healthcare facility
- entry to a ward
- prior to visiting a patient
Having ABHR available in high traffic areas eg. foyers, entrances to wards, with signage about appropriate use with help encourage this.
Q: What about relatives and carers that are helping to provide care to a patient?
A: If relatives and carers are helping to nurse a patient they should be shown how and when to clean their hands during a sequence of care. However, they are unlikely to touch other patients in a similar way so are unlikely to transfer infection to other patients.