A group of senior infection control nurses have come together with patient groups to try and prevent the loss of progress made on hand hygiene over the past decade.
The Clean Your Hands Campaign, which was introduced in 2004, has been credited with contributing to the fall in MRSA and Clostridium difficile rates. But the campaign came to an end in 2010 when it was announced its host organisation, the National Patient Safety Agency, was to be abolished.
An evaluation of the campaign, published earlier this year, found the amount of alcohol hand rub and liquid soap bought by acute trusts tripled between 2004 and 2008, suggesting an increase in adherence to hand hygiene.
Members of the campaign’s former expert advisory panel have now formed the Hand Hygiene Alliance. The group includes representatives from the Royal College of Nursing, the Infection Prevention Society, the Care Quality Commission and the Patients Association.
IPS president Julie Storr told Nursing Times that without “intermittent public health messages” the progress made under the national hand cleaning campaign could be lost.
“The danger is without a high profile we end up going back to low compliance with hand hygiene and regressing,” she said. “We still have a long way to go to improve compliance and address some of the more stubborn organisms such as MSSA.”
The alliance is consulting on a declaration that it hopes to get nurses and other healthcare professionals to sign up to. It is also seeking views on where to focus its energy and hosted a debate on the issue last week at the Reducing Healthcare Acquired Infections conference in London.
Rose Gallagher, RCN adviser on infection prevention and control, told Nursing Times it was likely the group would focus on community settings, as this had come through as an area of concern during the debate.
She said: “We want the alliance to be the group that provides the voice for hand hygiene and that people come to for advice, be it politicians and governments or anyone who wants advice on patient safety.”
The IPS, RCN and Patients Association also teamed up earlier this month to warn that progress on tackling healthcare associated infections could be “reversed” by financial pressure on NHS services leading to cuts to infection prevention and control teams.