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Why cleaning hands is so important

Handkerchiefs are a dirty word to Benenden Hospital’s Director of Infection Prevention Control Heather Leslie and false nails are a definite no-no.

Written by Jane Barlow
Published

They harbour unseen undesirable germs so easily transferred from person to person and render hand washing pointless.

Discard both and brush up on your hand washing technique to keep germs at bay and prevent the spread of infections.

Benenden Hospital holds an exemplary record on infection control – there has not been a case of MRSA, MSSA, E. coli or C. diff within its walls – a fact Heather puts down to the proactive routine screening programme for surgical patients as standard coupled with an on-going awareness campaign across the entire staff to prevent complacency. It is embedded in work contracts that personal hand hygiene will be a priority.   

The same principles proving so successful at Benenden Hospital can and should be mimicked in everyday life – and it all starts and ends with hand washing.

“It is the single most effective way to prevent cross contamination because bacteria are transmitted via the hands more than by any other means. Pay particular attention to the nail beds,” said Heather.

The temperature of the water is immaterial – it is all about the method.  Wet your hands first then apply the soap and then rub palm to palm, spread soap over the backs of hands and between the fingers, palms together again with fingers interlaced, grip fingers and rub sideways, clasp and rub each thumb, circle fingertips in opposing palms and go around each wrist. Then rinse for 10 seconds and ideally dry thoroughly with a paper towel. A quick shake under an air dryer and a thigh-wipe is not acceptable. Bacteria love a wet surface to thrive.

Pictured: Heather Leslie, Benenden Hospital's Director of Infection Prevention Control

Always use soap and water if the hands are visibly dirty, after a visit to the toilet and before and after food preparation. In between, use an antibacterial gel.

  • The power is in our hands to help prevent superbugs with antibiotic resistance now a global threat. Bacteria are becoming smarter and if not eradicated, they are having space to mutate and fight back against even the toughest of antibiotics, the last line of defence against the most serious infections. Call it a superpower of sorts, but washing your hands plays a part in winning that battle.
  • Droplets from a sneeze can travel 30 metres. It’s not nice to share those. Catch them then wash your hands well.
  • Water first then soap, rub palms, backs, in between fingers, thumbs, wrists, nail beds, rinse, paper towel dry.
  • Your computer keyboard could be grubbier than a toilet seat so give your desk a spring clean.
  • We are fighting a losing battle if after virtuous washing we go straight back to typing on dirty keys. Swab tests have shown that office items are a dumping ground for bacteria with laptops, computer mice and electronic ID badges all usual suspects.
  • It is a fundamental in healthcare, but Heather Leslie, Benenden Hospital’s Director of Infection Prevention Control, said good hygiene is in everyone’s hands: “Hand washing is the single most effective way to prevent cross contamination because bacteria are transmitted via the hands more than by any other means.

The World Health Organisation holds a Clean Your Hands Day every year to encourage thorough hand washing, usually in May.

It is the single most effective way to prevent cross contamination because bacteria are transmitted via the hands more than by any other means. Pay particular attention to the nail beds”

Heather Leslie, Director of Infection Prevention Control

Copyright © 2017 Benenden Hospital Trust. The Benenden Hospital Trust, whose registered office is at Goddard's Green Road, Benenden, Cranbrook Kent TN17 4AX is a Company limited by guarantee, Registered in England and Wales, number 3454120, and is also a registered charity, Registered charity number 1065995. The Benenden Hospital Trust is a subsidiary of The Benenden Healthcare Society Limited.

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