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Healthcare staff must lead on hand hygiene

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In the last two weeks I have spent a total of 15 hours in two day-case coronary units, where I witnessed a complete lack of compliance regarding hand hygiene.

At the entrance of these units are clearly marked posters and gel stations asking all who enter and exit to use the gels provided.
The first unit I visited had nursing staff, paramedics, doctors, porters, patients and visitors passing through on a regular basis. With the exception of four people, no one actually used the gels provided. The admitting nurse was wearing nail polish and actually sat on the bed to admit patients.
In the six-bed bay, there were clearly marked yellow posters with instructions saying: ‘Please clean hands before touching patient’ and a metal bottle-stand to house the gel. Unfortunately it had no bottle.
Patients here went to have procedures performed and when they returned to the ward, they had to lie flat for several hours, having observations carried out every 15 minutes. This included, in some cases, having pressure applied to a wound site to stem bleeding.
The gauze they used for this procedure was not taken from a sterile pre-pack but from the facility over the wash basin – in other words, the hand-drying paper. Again, no hands were washed, no gloves worn, with the exception of one nurse who washed her hands and one who used gloves.
The bottom line here is that infection prevention is everyone’s business. We are all potential clients of the NHS, whether we are politicians, health staff or Joe Public.
However, I do expect to see healthcare professionals lead by example. Maybe now is the time to have someone standing on guard at the entrance of every hospital ward and unit to ensure that basic hand hygiene principles are being adhered to.

Bev Hurst, Wigan

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