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National Patient Safety Agency

Campaign to improve the hand hygiene of all NHS staff

7 July 2008


From this month, primary care, mental health, care and ambulance NHS trusts across England and Wales have committed themselves to promoting hand hygiene to all healthcare workers.


They have signed up to the National Patient Safety Agency’s (NPSA’s) award-winning cleanyourhands campaign, which has up until now predominantly focused on acute trusts.


The campaign aims to reduce the spread of preventable healthcare associated infections, such as MRSA and Clostridium Difficile, by improving the hand hygiene of healthcare workers. Staff are prompted to clean their hands using either alcohol handrub or soap and water at the critical time and place – where and when patient care is provided.


The campaign has been very well received since it launched in 2004 and has now been adopted by all NHS hospitals in England and Wales. Last month also saw a successful launch of the campaign in Northern Ireland’s Health and Social Care acute bodies.


Following the successful testing of the campaign by 19 pioneer organisations representing the different care settings, it is now being rolled out to the remaining NHS trusts. So far 89% of primary care trusts, 83% of mental health trusts and 75% of care trusts have signed up in England and Wales, and it has been particularly welcomed by ambulance trusts where 100% are backing the campaign.


This means that a variety of healthcare workers such as doctors, care assistants, allied health professionals, nurses, opticians, dentists, physiotherapists and paramedics in a wide range of settings, including community hospitals, clinics, health centres, and people’s homes, now have access to the campaign’s valuable promotional materials and support.


Speaking of the launch, Chief Executive, Martin Fletcher said:


“Healthcare associated infection is not just a problem for hospitals. The extension of the cleanyourhands campaign to other healthcare settings aims to take a system-wide approach to the improvement of hand hygiene.


“These days many patients often travel between different healthcare settings to receive their care meaning that there is a greater risk that infections are being spread. Good hand hygiene among healthcare workers is one of the most critical factors in reducing this.


“Our aim is to make hand hygiene an integral part of day-to-day healthcare. The cleanyourhands campaign offers healthcare organisations the opportunity to address both the systems and behavioural factors that contribute to low compliance with hand hygiene. If effectively implemented, the campaign will improve the quality of care and contribute to the reduction of preventable infections.”


Leading up to this month’s launch, all participating trusts completed a three-month preparation period to ensure the processes were in place to manage the campaign and staff at all levels were involved.


The campaign materials include posters that are changed monthly and leaflets aimed at patients, and have been distributed to all participating organisations. Patient leaflets and stickers can be seen with the phrase “It’s OK to ask”, designed to encourage patients and visitors to feel comfortable in reminding healthcare workers to clean their hands if they think they have forgotten.


The campaign materials are provided free-of-charge to participating organisations. However, trusts will continue to purchase and provide alcohol handrub themselves.


Any trusts who have not registered for the campaign will have the opportunity to join when the second stage of the campaign is rolled out in 2009.



Notes for editors:


  1. Media enquiries to Paul Cooney in the NPSA Communications Department on 020 7927 9351 or paul.cooney@npsa.nhs.uk.

  2. The cleanyourhands campaign in NHS primary care, mental health, ambulance and care trusts is a three stage programme. The ultimate aim is that the need for a centrally-owned initiative should diminish over the life-span of the campaign, resulting in a more locally-driven and owned programme by the end of stage three.

  3. Registration has been consistently high across each of the SHA regions, but there has been particular enthusiasm for the campaign in the North East region, with 100% of trusts signed up, and London where 97% of trusts have now registered. To view a full list of the registered trusts visit www.npsa.nhs.uk/cleanyourhands/in-the-community/.

  4. Since the launch of the cleanyourhands campaign in acute NHS hospitals in September 2004, the rate of hand-hygiene has almost doubled and independent research has revealed that there has been a two-and-a-half fold increase in alcohol handrub and soap usage. For more information visit www.npsa.nhs.uk/cleanyourhands.

  5. In June 2008, the Year Three cleanyourhands campaign in NHS acute trusts won the award Strategic Communication Campaign of the year at the O2 sponsored Good Communication Awards. For more information visit http://www.npsa.nhs.uk/corporate/news/cleaning-up-at-the-awards/

  6. Case studies of non acute trusts are available, as are materials from the cleanyourhands campaign. Enquiries to Paul Cooney in the NPSA Communications Department on 020 7927 9351 or paul.cooney@npsa.nhs.uk.

  7. The cleanyourhands campaign is one part of a whole system approach to culture change in relation to patient safety. For more information view the NPSA patient safety guide for non-acute care, Seven Steps to Patient Safety for Primary Care at www.npsa.nhs.uk/patientsafety/improvingpatientsafety/7steps.

  8. The National Patient Safety Agency encompasses the National Research Ethics Service, Patient Safety Division and the National Clinical Assessment Service. Our vision is to lead and contribute to improved, safe patient care by informing, supporting and influencing healthcare individuals and organisations. Each division works within its sphere of expertise to improve patient outcomes.