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Hygiene fears over new hand scanners in UK hospitals21st of March 2012
Electronic scanners that identify members of staff via their hands have been installed in hospitals in the north of England.
But nursing staff are concerned that hygiene standards could be compromised if healthcare employees use these touch-screens to clock in and out of shifts.
The scanners recognise the identity of staff members via their hands and involve the use of a keypad to type in employee numbers. So far 79 of the scanners have been installed at Newcastle Hospitals' NHS Foundation Trust hospitals.
"We've had a few concerns from members about how the keypads are kept clean, because there is still a requirement for all staff to physically key in their unique number when clocking in and out," said Glenn Turp, North East regional director of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).
"But it's important to note that there are merits to a central electronic clock-in, clock-out system because it can facilitate more efficient rostering across the whole Trust and ensure that safe staffing levels are maintained at all times."
Hospital bosses have insisted that the hand-recognition scanners are in accordance with hygiene policies. A spokesman for Newcastle Hospitals' NHS Foundation Trust said: "All staff are advised to ensure that their hands are visibly clean when using hand scanners. In accordance with the Trust's hand hygiene policy, all staff are required to clean their hands when entering and leaving a clinical environment, irrespective of the use of the scanners."