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Infection control blog: Success and shame

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‘It seems that saving lives is not exciting enough to knock the financial crisis off the media stage’

Barely a month goes by without an announcement or new initiative related to the prevention and control of infection. The summer has been no exception and the autumn will likely bring more new challenges and reminders.

There have been reminders of the ‘Board to Ward’ culture, necessary to embedded infection prevention and cleanliness throughout a whole organisation, with the publication of the second version of ‘Going Further Faster II’.

There has been operational guidance on MRSA screening; to assist healthcare providers in achieving the requirement to screen all elective admissions for MRSA by the end of March 2009. More guidance on this initiative is likely as this letter raised more questions than it answered, especially for community and mental health settings.

In September there was the good news that John Reid’s target to halve MRSA cases by 2008 had been successfully achieved. This target was set in 2004 and many, both inside and outside the profession, believed it to be unachievable.

How sad then that, like so much good news, this great success wasn’t given huge media interest. It seems that saving lives is not exciting enough to knock the financial crisis off the media stage.

Achieving this reduction has taken enormous amounts of money, resources and time; a plethora of initiatives, targets and guidance. But despite all the coming together of expertise and new technology no-one has found anything more effective at preventing and controlling infection in a healthcare setting than the humble handwash.

This month sees two important dates in the Infection Prevention and Control Calendar – the first ever Global Handwashing Day on 15th October and the UK’s Infection Control Week 20th -24th October 2008.

The Global Handwashing website serves as a sobering reminder of the importance of handwashing - clean hands really do save lives. Children all over the world are exposed to a high incidence of diarrhoea and pneumonia due to the inability to access soap and water to wash their hands.

The huge financial expenditure and technological advances used in UK infection control are beyond the reach of many countries. Fortunately, for the less well off handwashing remains the single most cost-effective healthcare intervention anywhere in the world.

The forty-eight page planner’s guide for Global Handwashing Day cites England as an example in its text. The authors do not praise our success in halving cases of MRSA bacteraemia or our record for reducing cases of Clostridium difficile. Instead they use an English study to illustrate the point that, even in countries where soap and water are plentiful, people only washed their hands on half the occasions they should.

What a sad indictment and a shame for us all.

Perhaps you can use Global Handwashing Day and Infection Control Week to start making a difference with your family, colleagues, patients and clients.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Hi Everyone concerned about infection control. I am a Nurse Practitioner in the United States and I have a primary-care medical service for the homebound. I make house-calls. My sister has the same practice in Tucson AZ. I live in New Jersey. We have both had patients coming out of health care institutions with MRSA. We have been so concerned about it and our risk of contracting & spreading it that we designed hands-free watches & started a company called PRO-TIME WATCHES. We have read of the mandate in the UK about "nothing below the elbows". We as yet do not have that mandate in the USA>PLease see our web site at Please comment and advise if you have need for our product. Maybe we should advertise in the UK. Presently we are advertising in a USA Nursing Journal and are going to trade shows. We just launched in October. Would love some insight whether our product would be well received in the UK or does a similar product exist for you. Would also like to know which journals are the most popular in the UK. Are there any journals that nurses get without paying for a subscription? Many thanks for your time and may I say...God bless Nurses where ever they shall be. Catherine Menewisch MSN, CRNP CEO Medical Care Solutions email & CEO PRO-TIME Watches email, web site

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