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Handwashing in multi-bed wards 'more critical' than for single rooms


Handwashing in multi-bed wards is even more critical than previously thought, according to latest research that has found such settings carry a higher risk of infection than single occupancy rooms.

A study, carried out by University of Leeds’ Institute of Public Health and Environmental Engineering, found multi-bed wards were more likely to have contaminated surfaces, which then increased the risk of infections being spread by clinicians working in these areas.

“Hand washing and cleaning is hugely important in all hospital wards, but it is even more critical in multi-bed wards”

Cath Noakes

Researcher Dr Marco-Felipe King, who carried out the study, used a computer technique for analysing fluid flows to work out how infectious particles released into the air settled onto surfaces in different hospital ward designs.

Using a mathematical model based on staff touching these surfaces, Dr King determined how likely it would be for clinicians and other workers to get pathogens on their hands.

The study, published in journal Indoor Air,  found more than twice as many infectious particles were likely to be passed onto patients in four-bed wards compared with the same number in single-bed settings, even with the same levels of hand hygiene.

C difficile

C difficile

Professor Cath Noakes, who led the research, said: “We found the multi-bed wards posed a greater risk because there was a higher likelihood that surfaces would be contaminated, even in areas that were quite a distance from already infected patients, and that these would be passed onto medics’ hands.”

She added: “The message is that handwashing and cleaning is hugely important in all hospital wards, but that it is even more critical in multi-bed wards where infectious particles may be present on surfaces that medics may not expect to be contaminated.”


Readers' comments (2)

  • Four-bed wards? What a novelty! I work in A&E where we have a fifteen bed bay that has just had two extra beds squeezed into it!

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  • it is of vital importance for every single patient and don't you forget it!

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