Regular touch points to ways we can make hand hygiene better

14th of August 2013 Article by Mike Sullivan
Regular touch points to ways we can make hand hygiene better

Mike Sullivan, managing director of hand hygiene products supplier GOJO Industries - Europe writes his latest hand hygiene blog for the ECJ website. He has worked closely with the UK National Health Service (NHS), the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Société Française d'Hygiène Hospitalière, the Infection Prevention Society, the Association for Prevention in Infection Control, and Private Organisations for Patient Safety (POPS).

Having barely recovered from the amazing achievements and images of London 2012, the UK is now basking in the glory of an incredible summer of sport. Andy Murray became the first British man to win Wimbledon in 77 years, Chris Froome triumphed in the Tour de France, and Lewis Hamilton recently won his first Grand Prix for new team, Mercedes.

These well-known sporting personalities, and many others that space doesn't allow me to name, all have a huge amount of natural talent and a definite will to win - but they also rely on data and statistics to measure themselves and other key influencing factors to ensure that they develop the competitive edge to help them stay ahead of their rivals.

Although it may not attract the multi-million pound sponsorship deals so prevalent in sport, the same could be said of the infection control community. Our global ‘team' has one common aim, to improve patient safety by reducing the prevalence of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). We even have our outstanding ‘stars', who achieve great breakthroughs in terms of knowledge, formulations or training methods.

And that's why regular research into our sector is so important, because it helps to shape the course of future work and collaborations, enabling us to get better at what we do, and to achieve our goals.

In July the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) published the results of its first point prevalence survey (PPS) on HAIs and antimicrobial use in European hospitals. Based on the survey's findings, ECDC estimates that, on any given day, one in 18 patients in European hospitals has at least one HAI. More than 1,000 hospitals in 30 European countries participated in the survey, which also looked into the most commonly reported infections, and gathered data on infection control structures in those hospitals.

In a similar way to a top level athlete hooking themself up to a heart monitor before they begin training, surveys such as these provide invaluable data, which, when analysed carefully, can pinpoint areas for improvement. This could mean devising different ways to train healthcare workers in the right time, place and way to clean hands (in essence, the World Health Organisation's Five Moments for Hand Hygiene); or reveal a need to improve awareness raising with both hospital employees, patients and visitors.

Poor hand hygiene is not the sole cause of HAIs, but good hand hygiene can play a significant role in helping to reduce them. It's important then, that surveys like the ECDC's continue to happen, even if the results don't make particularly comfortable reading.

As well as suggesting ways to progress even further, they help to keep hand hygiene high on the agenda for anyone working in healthcare - from the infection control nurses on the front line, to senior managers and those commissioning healthcare services.

Surveys, studies and evidence contribute to a global conversation on HAIs and hand hygiene that we must never let go quiet. Thankfully, the infection control community shows no sign of letting this happen, even embracing Twitter as a way to raise awareness and share ideas.

The next big event, and pooling of knowledge, will take place at ExCel in London from 30 September-2 October. IPS 2013 is the UK's largest infection prevention event, where delegates can learn about the latest research, education and expertise from speakers that have travelled from around the globe.

Professors, doctors, consultants and nurses from countries across the world, including Singapore, Canada and Japan, will be giving informative talks on a wide range of healthcare issues as part of a comprehensive speaker programme.

This includes Hugo Sax, Head of Infection Control Program, University Hospital of Zurich, Switzerland, who will be presenting a session entitled: ‘Hand Hygiene - the ultimate microbiology-behaviour challenge'; a subject of great interest to me, and many others. There will also be the chance to view or listen to abstracts in the form of posters and oral presentations, providing much food for thought, and maybe a few surprises.

No doubt the ECDC survey will also be a topic for conversation, and this should be welcomed. As long as the surveys keep coming, it ensures we are regularly ‘checking the pulse' of infection control issues, which enables us to intervene with targeted and timely treatments to effect a speedy ‘recovery'.


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