UK hospital hygiene campaign 'saved 10,000 lives'

17th of May 2012
UK hospital hygiene campaign 'saved 10,000 lives'

A government funded campaign in the UK to improve hand hygiene in hospitals across England and Wales has led to a significant fall in the rates of hospital acquired infections (HAIs), a report says.

After the CleanYourHands drive was launched in 2004 the amount of soap and alcohol hand rubbought by NHS trusts almost tripled, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Over the same period MRSA rates in hospitals were slashed by more than half, while there was a significant drop in the number of Clostridium difficile infections.

The campaign, backed by the Department of Health, was introduced across the 187 acute NHS trusts in England and Wales between December 2004 and June 2005.

It encouraged hospital visitors, patients and staff to wash their hands with soap or an alcohol gel when entering or leaving wards. People were also encouraged to clean their hands before touching patients or eating food and after going to the toilet.

As part of the drive alcohol gels were put by bedsides, posters reminded staff to wash their hands and regular checks were made to ensure hands were kept clean.

The BMJ study, which analysed statistics between July 2004 and June 2008, found that the number of patients infected with MRSA fell from 1.88 cases per 10,000 bed days to 0.91 over the four-year period.

Rates of C difficile infection dropped from 16.75 to 9.49 cases, while the number of cases of MSSA - a bacterium found on the skin - did not fall.

The study also found that hospital trust procurement of soap and alcohol hand rub rose from a combined 21.8 ml to 59.8 ml per patient bed day over the period.

The increased use of soap in hospitals was linked to reduced rates of C difficile infection, while rising use of alcohol hand rub was associated with a reduction in MRSA cases.

The report concludes: "The CleanYourHands campaign was associated with sustained increases in hospital procurement of alcohol rub and soap, which the results suggest has an important role in reducing rates of some healthcare associated infections.

"National interventions for infection control undertaken in the context of a high profile political drive can reduce selected healthcare associated infections."

Sheldon Paul Stone, senior lecturer at UCL medical school who led the study, estimated that around 10,000 lives were saved because of the campaign, which ended in 2010.

A spokesman from the Department of Health was quoted as saying: "The CleanYourHands campaign was successful in its aim to highlight the importance of good hand hygiene practice across the NHS. We know this has been successful.

"The challenge now is to ensure the NHS embeds the good practice highlighted in the campaign to achieve our ambition to wipe out avoidable healthcare-associated infection."



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