When it comes to washing your hands properly and regularly, Benenden Hospital surgical and support teams are real evangelists. It’s no accident that Benenden Hospital has one of the best records amongst UK hospitals for avoiding healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs), together with an impeccable record of zero incidences of MRSA bacteraemia and no cases of C. Difficile infection since 2002.
Monthly Hand Hygiene Audits completed in all clinical areas, and assessments and training completed in non-clinical areas using U.V. light box and torch. This ensures that our high standards are maintained across the organisation.
So who better to comment on the importance of handwashing, when related to the hospital situation, than Director of Infection Prevention and Control at Benenden Hospital, Heather Leslie. “At Benenden Hospital we dedicate a lot of time and effort to the issue of infection prevention and control, because we believe that patients deserve to come into, and be treated in, an environment in which the chances of them picking up infections are reduced to the bare minimum. Healthcare-associated infections are something that patients are really worried about when coming into hospital and we want to ensure that the patient journey is as safe as it can possibly be, which is why we are constantly reviewing and auditing our practices. We are very proud of our extremely low infection rate at Benenden Hospital but will never let complacency set in. We’ll strive to continue and maintain our excellent record through promotion of infection prevention measures such as pre-operative patient screening and the placing and use of hand gel across the hospital site.”
Most people are aware that there is a link between the spread of infection and the lack of basic hand washing, but does the average person fully understands the risks in everyday life?
Perhaps if people were more aware of some of the facts, it might prompt them into taking a bit more care. For instance:
Bacteria doesn't show up as dirt on your hands or on any surface you touch, they are microscopic and invisible to the human eye
Bacteria are extremely resilient and can live on hard surfaces for anything up to several months, so work-surfaces, TV remotes, telephones, key pads and door handles are just a few of the things that you can pick them up from
We pick up germs everywhere that we go, but particularly after we’ve been to the toilet, so washing and drying your hands thoroughly after visiting the toilet is very important
Similarly, you pick up germs when preparing food. Raw meat and fish are the worst culprits, but you can pick up bacteria from many foods
Cross-contamination, particularly between raw and prepared food, caused by re-using work-tops, chopping boards and knives, can be particularly hazardous when causing infections, so always wash boards and knives between preparation of different items
Similarly, cloths used for wiping down surfaces can harbour, multiply and pass on bacteria if not washed and disinfected thoroughly after use. When wiping down, ideally use a disinfectant spray and disposable cloth, or make sure that the cloth is disinfected once you have finished
Be a good neighbour or colleague
But general cleanliness and washing your hands isn’t only about keeping yourself free from infections and diseases, it’s also about not passing on infections to other people. So following some basic cleanliness principles can help:
Always wash your hands, with soap and water, and dry them thoroughly (which is just as important), after visiting the toilet. Bacteria can easily be passed to others on door handles, door frames, light switches, or any number of everyday items. Would you like to shake hands with someone who had just been to the toilet and not washed their hands?
Always cover your nose and mouth when sneezing, ideally with a handkerchief or tissue. Used handkerchiefs should be replaced and washed regularly; tissues should be thrown into the bin after use; and if you have to use your hands in an emergency, then wash them thoroughly as soon as possible
Always wash and dry your hands thoroughly after preparing any food, or touching contaminated hotspots such as kitchen bins or used cloths etc.
Always wash your hands before preparing any food, particularly if you have been out in the garden working; handling animals (whether wild or domesticated animals or household pets); have a cold or similar infection; or have been in close contact with other adults or children
And, most importantly, always wash your hands with soap and water, or with sterilising gel, both before and after entering a sterile environment, such as a hospital ward.
Did You Know?
According to one study, on behalf of Dettol, the five most common reasons given for not washing hands were:
I haven’t been anywhere
They don’t look dirty
I’m too busy
Germs are good for the immune system