Health workers who fail to meet standards on hand-washing should be subject to disciplinary procedures, the Scottish Tories have said.
According to Conservative deputy leader and health spokesman Jackson Carlaw, “stronger action” is needed, as new NHS figures suggest that one in 10 doctors fail to meet hand hygiene standards.
“We need to consider the possibility of disciplinary action against doctors and anyone else who continually fails to meet hand hygiene standards,” he said.
The latest hand hygiene audit within the NHS, which was carried out in May, shows that the overall compliance rate with standards in Scotland is 96%.
But the compliance rate among doctors continues to lag behind that of other health workers, with hand hygiene standards being met by 90% of medical staff, 98% of nurses and 97% of allied health professionals who include radiographers, podiatrists and physiotherapists.
Mr Carlaw criticised doctors’ performance on hand-washing, saying: “It is a real problem that the very people who are supposed to be setting an example on wards are failing so spectacularly to do so. You could understand, in a wide-ranging observation, for a handful of people to occasionally fall below standards. But for 10% of hospitals’ best paid and most senior staff to be failing this crucial measure is absolutely alarming.
“Hospitals have learned lessons on hygiene the hard way in recent years. We know how costly infections like MRSA, C diff (Clostridium difficile), norovirus and even seasonal flu can be.
“So the fact the message is still not getting through means stronger action has to be taken, because this has been a problem for some time.”
A Scottish government spokeswoman said: “Good hand hygiene is recognised as one of the most effective ways of preventing the spread of infections such as Clostridium difficile and MRSA in our hospitals.
“National hand hygiene compliance by NHS staff remains consistently high at 96% but there is no room for complacency. All NHS chief executives should continue to encourage a culture of zero tolerance by all NHS staff towards non-hand hygiene compliance.”
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