Hospitals are being urged to do more to promote hand hygiene among both nursing staff and patients in a major new piece of national guidance on infection prevention and control.
It includes a five-point protocol on hand decontamination for staff, which is based on the World Health Organization’s Five Moments for Hand Hygiene initiative.
The guidance also states that hand hygiene campaigns with elements of staff engagement or social marketing are most effective – for example, using videos, posters and other media with hard hitting slogans and images to catch people’s attention.
These are among new recommendations in the Epic3 guidance, which was commissioned by the Department of Health and developed by a nurse-led group of experts. It updates a previous version of the Epic guidance from 2007 and is published in the Journal of Hospital Infection.
The guidance also includes new recommendations on catheter management, peripheral vascular devices and standard use of asepsis.
Lead author Professor Heather Loveday, from the University of West London, said it provided the “best available scientific evidence for preventing healthcare infections in hospitals”.
But she added: “Guidelines are only of use when translated into local policy and protocols by infection prevention teams and implemented consistently by all healthcare professionals in order to reduce variation in patient care.”
The guidance was welcomed by the Infection Prevention Society, which will play a key role in promoting the document.
Julie Storr, the society’s president and a nurse by background, said it was vital the guidelines were implemented “at the bedside” by frontline staff.
“Guidelines themselves will change nothing – it’s how they’re disseminated, implemented and monitored that’s crucial,” she said.
She noted that infection control remained a key priority for all, following the period of major NHS restructuring in recent years. “We’re emerging from a very big change in the health landscape and there is always the danger that infection control slips down the agenda,” she told Nursing Times.
Ms Storr admitted staff shortages could hamper best practice, but also stressed the importance of strong leadership. “You do need the right numbers of staff to make these happen,” she said.
“But what we’ve seen across the UK is that it’s the leadership at every level of the organisation that makes the difference,” she said. “Some organisations where they have huge challenges with staffing levels still seem to be producing good results.”
Ms Storr said she was particularly pleased to see some of the updated recommendations around hand hygiene and approaches to help change behaviour.
“They have taken heed of some of the emerging evidence around the importance of social marketing and there’s mention of the Five Moments of Hand Hygiene, which wasn’t in there before,” she said.
She also welcomed a stronger emphasis on informing and educating patients on how they could help prevention infection.
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