Hand washing regime makes Inverness nurses suffer

12th of September 2011
Hand washing regime makes Inverness nurses suffer

One of the most crucial measures put in place to eradicate superbugs is threatening the well-being of nurses in Scotland.

The emphasis on hand washing in the workplace has caused an increasing number of staff at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness to develop dermatitis, symptoms of which include itchy and burning skin. This has led to some nurses being placed on restricted duties and could even threaten their careers.

Procedures in the NHS Highland region require hand washing or alcohol gels to be used before and after each patient contact. Posters demonstrating the best way to wash are displayed in Highland hospitals.

These measures appear to have had an effect since there were no MRSA cases in
the area between April and June 2011. However as Heidi May, nurse director with NHS Highland, points out: "Dermatitis is becoming an issue. It is a career-limiting condition for some staff."

She feels that a balance has to be struck, but NHS Highland chief executive Elaine Mead says no change of policy is needed. However Ros Derham, RCN officer for NHS Highland, insists that health officials must take responsibility for the well-being of the workforce.

"It is the duty of employers to look after the skin health of their staff," she said. "That is particularly important in healthcare because if a nurse or other member of staff can't wash their hands or use hand gel due to dermatitis, then they can no longer carry out clinical work.

"It is therefore in the best interests of NHS Highland to make sure that good skin health is integral to their hand hygiene programme and adopt best practice to prevent and detect the early warning signs of this condition."



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