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HEALTHCARE HYGIENE


patient when getting in and out of bed, and perhaps by the visitor as well.


Wheelchairs pose a similar risk since these may be shared between infectious patients who are potentially shedding body fluids and micro- organisms from their skin. Wheelchairs may also be manoeuvred into place by members of staff or by helpful visitors, again providing a cross-infection hazard. Other risk areas include bedside lockers, telephones and switches on electrical equipment.


And what about the contamination threat posed by the clothes of healthcare workers? Their role in the transmission of germs has been the subject of controversy over recent years. In 2003 the British Medical Association urged hospital doctors to stop wearing ties since these could brush against patients’ wounds and be a source of cross-infection. In 2007 a ‘Bare Below the Elbows’ policy was implemented following concerns that the traditional doctor’s white coat could also result in cross- contamination between patients.


But when healthcare staff ditched their ties and white coats it had no discernible effect on contamination rates. In fact some hospitals have now reintroduced them after patients failed to realise that the casually-dressed, non-uniformed person addressing them was actually a doctor.


But while the transmission of illnesses via healthcare workers’ attire remains in doubt, there is no question about the dangers posed by the hands. And whether the surface being touched is a high-tech screen or a low-tech bed- frame, what matters most is that the person touching it has hands that are clean and free of contamination.


Adequate hand hygiene provision should therefore be supplied for patients and visitors as well as for healthcare workers.


Mild soaps and soft hand towels are best since these will not aggravate the skin, even when used frequently. Tork Extra Mild Foam Soap, for example, is kind to the hands while Tork Soft Singlefold Hand Towels are gentle on the skin, which means they will encourage thorough hand drying.


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“Whether the surface being touched is a


high-tech screen or a low-tech bed-frame, what matters most is that the person


touching it has hands


that are clean and free of contamination.”


Ideally a mild, perfume-free moisturiser should be available to keep the hands of healthcare workers soft and supple and prevent them from becoming cracked and sore. For example, Tork Hand and Body Lotion comes in a 50ml personal issue bottle that can be supplied to all members of staff, allowing them to moisturise their hands on the go.


In cases when a hospital worker’s hands need to be sanitised and a water supply is not readily available, a sanitiser such as Tork Alcohol Gel Hand Sanitiser should be made available as a supplement to hand hygiene regimes. And if a hand sanitiser dispenser is clipped to the patient’s bed or kept in the medical worker’s pocket it will always be on hand when required.


The threat posed by the hands in the healthcare sector is so well documented that various studies have looked at the advantages of fist- bumping over the traditional handshake when a doctor greets a patient.


In a recent study, scientists at Aberystwyth University tested various forms of greeting and discovered that bacteria transmission was reduced by 90% when bumping fists compared with a hand shake. And a high-five halved the amount of bacteria transmitted compared with shaking hands.


No-one seriously expects to be high- fived or fist-bumped by their doctor – particularly if he or she then has to go on to deliver harrowing news. However, this study makes the link between hands and cross-contamination abundantly clear.


So however high-tech the world becomes, hand hygiene will always be key to reducing infection rates. And the traditional method of washing the hands with soap and water – and then drying them thoroughly with a clean towel afterwards – will remain the best defence against cross-contamination.


www.tork.co.uk


Tomorrow’s Cleaning April 2016 | 59


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