Good hand hygiene is a message impossible to ignore at Lanarkshire hospitals thanks to a new team of six-foot high recruits.
Cardboard cut-outs of NHS Lanarkshire staff are warning people to “Stop! Clean your hands”.
Located within Monklands, Hairmyres and Wishaw General Hospitals - before being introduced at other hospitals and premises - the cut-outs will help prevent healthcare associated infection (HAI).
Jan Clarkson, Nurse Consultant (HAI), said: “The importance of good hand hygiene cannot be over emphasised and these cut-outs will make this message impossible to ignore.
“Hands are the most common way in which germs are spread.
“A number of HAIs can be prevented by cleaning our hands properly and these cut-outs, together with other initiatives introduced, will promote good hand hygiene habits and save lives.”
Jan added: “NHS Lanarkshire staff are determined that everyone in a healthcare premise takes responsibility for preventing germs spreading by washing their hands correctly.
“By agreeing to have these cardboard cut-outs of themselves the staff have demonstrated their commitment to the new initiatives and policies introduced.”
NHS Lanarkshire has launched a series of initiatives to promote the importance of good hygiene habits.
Three new policies were launched to emphasise the point:
• A zero tolerance approach to poor hand hygiene
• Updated hand hygiene policy
• A new uniform policy
The new initiatives and policies were launched after consultation with members of the public.
Robert Wilson, a member of South Lanarkshire Public Partnership Forum (PPF) and a representative of the Friends of Lady Home Hospital in the Clydesdale PPF, said: “Every person should know how important good hand hygiene is to stopping infections.
“The cardboard cut-outs are a good idea as they don’t leave anyone in any doubt that they must wash their hands when entering that area.
“Together with the other initiatives no-one can have any excuse for not following the correct practices.”
The Zero Tolerance policy sets out staff’s personal responsibility for hand hygiene.
It aims to stamp out poor by setting out clearly defined roles and responsibilities of all staff for maintaining hand hygiene standards.
This policy complements NHS Lanarkshire’s updated hand hygiene policy.
It provides staff with the guidance and knowledge they need to wash their hands properly and at the right times in order to help prevent infection.
Bob Smith, vice chair of the North Lanarkshire Public Partnership Forum, and chair of Airdrie and Villages Community Forum, said: “It is of the utmost importance that people in hospitals was their hands correctly to prevent infection.
“Although it should be habit, these initiatives and new policies will help reinforce the message that poor hand hygiene is not acceptable.”
As part of the new uniform policy, all clinical staff must now ensure they are “Bare Below the Elbow”.
This means short sleeves must be worn at all times and no jewellery, other than one plain band ring, may be worn.
For infection control purposes wrist watches must not be worn and neckties should be avoided while staff are involved in clinical work.
This policy will help ensure good hand and wrist hygiene for clinical and other patient activities.
It also states that staff should not wear their uniform outwith the workplace other than when on escort duties or undertaking a community role.
Teresa Mullen, from Coatbridge, member of the North Lanarkshire Public Partnership Forum, and of the Coatbridge Community Forum, said: “These new policies are not only welcome, they’re vital in reducing healthcare associated infections.
“People need to realise washing your hands correctly is not an option it’s something we must all do to prevent the spread of infection.
“I’m also very happy to see the new uniform policy and I think stopping staff wearing uniforms outside their workplace will reduce infections and increase the confidence of the public.”
Other initiatives launched to tackle healthcare associated infections include a new system of hand hygiene products which is being rolled out in NHS Lanarkshire hospitals and healthcare premises.
The new products, supplied by Ecolab, will help promote a consistent approach to hand hygiene.
Five tips to help fight infection
Everyone can help fight infection by following the five top tips from Scotland's Chief Medical and Chief Nursing Officer any time they are visiting hospital.
The five top tips are:
• Think about keeping patients safe before you visit someone in hospital. If you, or someone you live with has a cold or diarrhoea, or if you feel unwell, try to stay away until you're better.
• Wash and dry your hands before visiting a hospital ward, particularly after going to the toilet. If there is alcohol hand gel provided at the ward door or at the bedside, use it.
• Ask ward staff for advice before you bring in food or drink for someone you are visiting in hospital.
• If you visit someone in hospital, don't sit on their bed and keep the number of visitors to a minimum at any one time. Never touch dressings, drips, or other equipment around the bed.
• If you think NHS premises are not as clean as they should be, let the sister or charge nurse know. If you think a healthcare worker has forgotten to wash their hands, remind them about this.
For more information about hand hygiene visit the Scottish National Hand Hygiene Campaign website www.washyourhandsofthem.com .