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Q. Is the NPSA saying that handwashing with soap and water is no longer important?

A. No. Handwashing plays a vital role in hand hygiene. In particular, handwashing is always recommended if your hands are visibly soiled; caring for a patient with diarrhoea or vomiting; if working in an area where there is an outbreak of diarrhoeal disease, including Clostridium difficile or Norovirus or if hands have come in contact with body fluids.

 

Alcohol handrub is intended to make it easier for staff to clean their hands quickly with a minimum amount of effort and skin irritation. This is why they are recommended for routine use where none of the indicators for handwashing occur.

 

 

Q. Do I need to wash my hands with soap and water as well as using alcohol handrub?

No, one or the other will suffice.

 

The instances when handwashing is the only acceptable method of hand hygiene are if your hands are visibly soiled; caring for a patient with diarrhoea or vomiting; working in an area where there is an outbreak of diarrhoeal disease, including Clostridium difficile or Norovirus or if hands have come in contact with body fluids.

 

Apart from these instances, either alcohol handrub or soap and water handwashing is adequate. Asking staff to perform more hand hygiene than is required may lead to decreased compliance overall.