Practice nurses have been told to decontaminate their hands immediately after removing gloves, in updated guidance on preventing the spread of infection in primary care settings.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has updated infection control guidance originally published in 2003.
The guidance reiterates that hands must be decontaminated immediately before and after every episode of direct contact with patients, after any exposure to body fluids and after contact with a patient’s surroundings that could potentially result in hands being contaminated.
The new version of the guidelines also advises that nurses should decontaminate hands with liquid soap and water, as opposed to handrub, in clinical situations where there is potential for the spread of alcohol-resistant organisms, such as C difficile or other organisms that cause diarrhoeal illness.
This also applies to circumstances when hands are visibly soiled or potentially contaminated with body fluids. In all other situations, NICE said handrub should preferably be used to decontaminate hands.
To help ensure their hands remain decontaminated during clinical work, nurses are required to cover cuts and abrasions with waterproof dressings, be bare below the elbow, remove wrist and hand jewellery, and make sure fingernails are “short, clean and free of nail polish”.
Julian Spinks, a GP and member of the guideline development group, said: “At a time where increasingly complex procedures are being provided in primary care, infection control is becoming more and more important.”
The Department of Health has also published technical guidance on managing Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria in augmented care units, such as paediatric and adult critical care, neonatal and burns units.