Press Release

Minister for Health pledges Ireland’s support for WHO SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands

WHO Hand Hygiene Day 2013

Dr. James Reilly, Minister for Health today (Sunday 5th May 2013) reaffirmed his support for the WHO’s Hand Hygiene Day, 2013 being the fifth annual event of this most important initiative; Ireland is an active partner in this global annual campaign.

Hand hygiene is the most effective way for us to protect ourselves against infection. In healthcare everyone has a responsibility to perform hand hygiene as outlined in the WHO 5 moments for hand hygiene in order to keep their patients safe and provide good quality care. The WHO’s campaign SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands initiative aims to galvanise hand hygiene at the point of patient care. As part of the day’s actions, healthcare facilities worldwide demonstrate their continued commitment by signing up to the global movement and undertaking and sharing locally driven activities on hand hygiene improvements at the point of care.

The Minister again pledged Ireland’s support to continue with actions to reduce hospital acquired infection and to share results and learning internationally. The Minister commented: “Poor hygiene standards puts lives in danger. Hand hygiene is a simple way for us to show our patients that we care and wish to keep them safe. Everybody has a personal responsibility. All healthcare staff need to ensure that they have received hand hygiene training and that they are familiar with the 5 moments. We all need to play our part in improving hygiene standards in hospitals; this requires buy in from everybody – hospital staff in all areas and visitors.

This Year’s Focus

The aim of this year’s WHO Hand Hygiene Day is to build on the successful WHO Clean Care is Safer Care campaign and to continue to inform and support the general public and medical personnel about when and how to clean their hands.

The focus on 2013 in particular is for healthcare facilities to:

    • Continue to focus on hand hygiene education, monitoring and feedback.

The national educational train the trainers programme is now in its third year – this programme aims to train hand hygiene auditors in every acute hospital. Hospital hand hygiene audit results are now published on a biannual basis and have shown a steady improvement. The multimodal hand hygiene programmes in our healthcare facilities need support from the top down. Evaluation and repeated monitoring as well as healthcare workers and senior managers’ knowledge of the importance of hand hygiene is a vital component of any campaign to manage and reduce healthcare associated infections.

    • Patients have a voice too

Healthcare facilities are supported in identifying the best way to involve patients in hand hygiene promotion and improvement.

The HSE & RCPI national clinical programme for the prevention of healthcare-associated infection and antimicrobial resistance – Initiatives for 2013

  • The WHO “5 Moments for Hand Hygiene” continues to be a clear, simple and effective way for healthcare staff to protect their patients from the spread of infection. The 5 steps are:
    1. Wash hands before touching a patient
    2. Wash hands before commencing a cleaning or aseptic procedure
    3. Wash hands after a body fluid exposure risk
    4. Wash hands after touching a patient
    5. Wash hands after touching patient surroundings
  • The HSE will continue to promote this message by again issuing five e-mails for the 5 Moments to all healthcare staff over the month of May
  • New hand hygiene posters will be distribute to hospitals over the month of May
  • A newsletter for all HSE staff on hand hygiene will issue shortly highlighting a number of hospital initiatives, improving hand hygiene in school children and other articles including one from Margaret Murphy of WHO on patient expectations.
  • A new hand hygiene IT tool has been developed to facilitate hand hygiene audits
  • The WHO’s simple message of ‘clean hands save lives and prevent infection’ cannot be emphasised strongly enough and applies in the home as much as in the hospital setting. This message will continue to be promoted to all healthcare users and the general public throughout the year.

The Minister acknowledges the ongoing commitment and huge efforts of healthcare staff across the health sector in working to improve patient safety and welcomes local initiatives to support WHO Hand Hygiene Day.

The Minister noted that while there has been a decrease of 55% in the number of MRSA cases reported between 2006 and 2012 we cannot become complacent and CRE outbreaks in Ireland and abroad demonstrate the need for ongoing vigilance and attention to the threat posed by Antimicrobial Resistance and HCAIs.

Note to Editors: Clean Care is Safer Care

Health care-associated infection is a major issue in patient safety as it affects millions of people worldwide and complicates the delivery of patient care. Infections contribute to patient deaths and disability, promote resistance to antibiotics and generate additional expenditure to those already incurred by the patients’ underlying disease.

To fight the spread of health care-associated infections which take a high toll in human lives and affect hundreds of millions of patients worldwide each year, WHO and its partners launched the Global Patient Safety Challenge with the theme “Clean Care is Safer Care” on Thursday 13th October 2005. As part of the launch the WHO Guidelines on Hand Hygiene in Health Care (Advanced Draft) were made available.

The aim of the launch was to strengthen the commitment of interested Member States to the Global Patient Safety Challenge and the critical role of hand hygiene in controlling the spread of health care-associated infection and multiresistant pathogens.

The implementation of the Global Patient Safety Challenge comprises three major strategies:

  • global and national “Clean Care is Safer Care” campaigns,
  • country statements pledging to address health care-associated infection,
  • testing implementation in districts.