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Education, education, education

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VOL: 97, ISSUE: 46, PAGE NO: 49

MARY WARD, RGN, Assistant clinical editor, Nursing Times

Two years on from the release of Standards for Environmental Cleanliness in Hospitals by the Infection Control Nurses' Association and Association of Domestic Management (ICNA and ADM, 1999) what has really altered? Are hospital cleaner, healthier places to be treated in, or is this report just gathering dust on a shelf near you?

Two years on from the release of Standards for Environmental Cleanliness in Hospitals by the Infection Control Nurses' Association and Association of Domestic Management (ICNA and ADM, 1999) what has really altered? Are hospital cleaner, healthier places to be treated in, or is this report just gathering dust on a shelf near you?

Health secretary Alan Milburn recently announced that 42 'red' hospitals - considered to be the dirtiest in the country in March this year under the government's traffic-light rating system - had now been reclassified to yellow or green. By any standard this represents a dramatic improvement in little over six months. Mr Milburn went on to announce that members of the Women's Royal Voluntary Service is to be invited to join patients and staff on patient environmental action teams in English trusts.

This proposal has been met with a mixed response from both the major nursing unions, Unison and the RCN. Infection control nurses will no doubt find themselves adding members of the WRVS to their already extensive list of group in need of education and support in the near future. Joan Cochrane's article on infection control education will have implications on the education needs of the voluntary sector as well as that of health care professionals.

Mandy Roberts also highlight the importance of a safe and clean hospital environment. Sadly, few of us have avoided an encounter with a common item of hospital equipment - such as an infusion pump - covered in dried blood at some point in our careers. At this most basic level nurses need to be aware of the risk to patients and colleagues of such poor levels of hygiene and take positive steps to improve practice.

Hand washing, while still the essential take-home message of any infection control intervention, is just the starting point. The appropriate and effective use of antibiotics can have major implications for all of us, as Angela Emslie and Sarah Fielder report on a patient education programme in the community. Yet again improved education is key to preventing further problems. All nurses, not just those specialising in infection control, have a duty to educate themselves, their patients and colleagues when they observe potentially dangerous practice, be it poor prescribing, soiled equipment or poor hand washing technique.

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