Chris Wakefield, Vice President, European Marketing & Product Development, at GOJO Industries-Europe Ltd explores hand hygiene and how infection prevention measures can be strengthened to help save lives
According to the UK Sepsis Trust, each year in the UK, there are around 250,000 cases of sepsis, a rare but serious complication of an infection. It is often called ‘the silent killer’, because, without quick treatment, it can lead to multiple organ failure and death. Sepsis is believed to be the cause of around 46,000 deaths in the UK every year. That’s a greater number than bowel, breast and prostate cancer combined.
Awareness of this dangerous condition is increasing amongst consumers and healthcare professionals alike, due to high profile coverage on national television, as well as an increasing number of ‘real-life’ stories appearing in the national press. The focus of these items is often to help others spot the symptoms, as this condition is notoriously difficult to diagnose.
Rarely highlighted, however, are the strategies which can help prevent sepsis from developing in the first place. It is a fact that good hand washing and sanitising practice not only play a key role in the prevention of sepsis in healthcare but can also help fight the spread of antibiotic resistance.
This fact is also supported by the WHO (World Health Organization). Last year, it called on all health facilities to prevent healthcare-associated sepsis through hand hygiene and infection prevention and control (IPC) action, via its ‘It’s in Your Hands’ campaign. On World Hand Hygiene Day this year, (5th May 2019), the WHO will be continuing to promote the importance of good hand hygiene, via its annual ‘SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands’ message.
Success hinges on compliance
It is vital that everyone in a healthcare setting takes all appropriate steps to prevent infection, including paying careful attention to hand hygiene. This is important for staff, who already make this part of their daily lives, but, also, importantly, for visitors and patients themselves – as everybody must comply for infection to be prevented effectively.
Startling research, however, shows that 25% of people don’t wash their hands after using the washroom, while a further 46% don’t wash long enough to be effective. This highlights a genuine huge need for education and awareness so that everyone understands why, how and when hands should be cleaned.
As a founder member of the Private Organizations for Patient Safety group, GOJO Industries-Europe is a strong advocate of the ‘total solution’ approach to making hand hygiene second nature to everyone. This means everyone understanding the importance of hand hygiene and having the right products available in the right place, at the right time, to carry it out. A truly successful hand hygiene system should combine three key strategies: Accessibility, scientifically advanced formulations and education.
Accessibility is key
It is particularly vital that there are adequate, appropriately positioned, hand hygiene facilities at the point of care. Dispensers should be easily accessible, simple to use, and as close as possible – ideally within an arm’s reach of where patient care or treatment is taking place. Importantly, point-of-care products should be accessible without having to leave the patient zone.
Dispensers can be wall-mounted, free-standing, push-activated or touch-free. Touch-free dispensers are becoming increasingly popular. Intuitively sensing the presence of hands, they dispense just the right amount of product every time, and the fact that they are touch-free also increases their hygiene rating.
Scientifically advanced formulations
Choose soaps and sanitisers which are hospital grade and kind to skin – these can be gel or foam format. Choose formulations that have been tested and have passed key hospital norms EN 1500, EN 14476 and EN 12791, for assurance that they are safe for use in healthcare locations.
The high frequency with which many healthcare workers wash or sanitise their hands means that the formulations must also be gentle on the skin. If using hygienic hand rubs, which is a popular choice in healthcare settings, choose one that is at least 70% ethyl-alcohol, clinically proven to kill germs within seconds.
Education and awareness
Putting up notices, posters and other visual displays in key germ hot-spots such as washrooms and waiting areas is fundamental to improving hand hygiene behaviour. They make very effective prompts, but can also offer advice on the best techniques. Good hand hygiene companies can offer sound advice on the most effective approaches, as well as provide materials, based on their knowledge and market insight.
Accessibility + Formulations + Education = Success
For a truly successful hand hygiene system, these three elements must be joined together – without one, the system will not work effectively. People must learn the benefits of good hand hygiene, and understand that they play an important role in improving health outcomes, not only in health care settings but in their everyday lives, through their own health, well-being and productivity.
Infection prevention and control isn’t down to one person or product; it’s everyone’s challenge. Only by comprehending and being aware of good hand hygiene behaviour and its consequences for patient protection, can we tackle the effective prevention of problems such as sepsis.
4 “Clean Living.” News Center, Press Releases. American Society for Microbiology and The Soap and Detergent Association, Sept. 2007.
5 2008 SDA Clean Hands Report Card® sponsored by the Soap and Detergent Association.
Trade Marketing & Communications Manager
*Please note: this is a commercial profile