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Tougher hand hygiene targets

27/12/2007

Health boards will be expected to meet rigorous standards of hand hygiene to help prevent the spread of infection.

Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing Nicola Sturgeon repeated the new target - for all hospitals to be at least 90 per cent compliant with hand hygiene standards by November next year - in response to the first ever NHS hand hygiene audits published today.

The results of the audits, published today by Health Protection Scotland, showed that health boards are now reaching 79 per cent compliance.

Hand hygiene audits involve specially trained staff going into wards and monitoring hand hygiene practices, including how frequently staff wash their hands.

In future, not only will the hand hygiene audits demand tougher compliance, but the checks themselves will be made more stringent.

Ms Sturgeon said: "It is reassuring to see that across Scotland, compliance with hand hygiene procedures is improving and this will help stop the spread of infection.

"However, it is disappointing that not all boards are compliant with the green rating and more needs to be done to ensure that hand hygiene standards are as rigorous as possible.

"Patients and the public rightly expect the highest possible standards of cleanliness and hand hygiene in our hospitals to prevent the spread of infections. That is why I have announced that all health boards will be expected to meet 90 per cent by November next year.

"Monitoring hand hygiene practices in our hospitals is an important development in our fight against infections and will ensure that we know that all health staff are employing the highest possible standards of hand hygiene."

Health boards are being given funding for at least another two years to support the Local Health Board Coordinator posts who will continue to drive home the message to staff, patients and visitors that good hand hygiene is crucial.

The first two audits were carried out in 2007, and a third audit is due to take place in February 2008.

The third HAI delivery plan, unveiled last month, will see 54 million pounds invested in a range of measures to tackle hospital infections, including the establishment of an MRSA screening programme.