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National Patient Safety Agency

cleanyourhands in Northern Ireland

25 June 2008


The National Patient Safety Agency’s (NPSA’s) cleanyourhands campaign launches in Northern Ireland today in all acute Health and Social Care bodies.


The campaign, currently in its third year in NHS acute hospitals in England and Wales, aims to help reduce the spread of preventable healthcare associated infections, such as MRSA and Clostridium Difficile, by improving the hand hygiene of healthcare workers.


The campaign will be implemented in all hospitals in Northern Ireland and marks the first time that the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) has linked with the NPSA.


Launching the campaign at Mater Hospital, Belfast, Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey said:


“This campaign is about reinforcing the message that good hand hygiene is absolutely essential in the prevention of infection. Staff and visitors are being reminded that the benefits of the simple act of cleaning your hands must not be underestimated and that by just taking a minute to stop and clean your hands, you are helping to prevent and control infections.


“Although we will never be able to totally eradicate healthcare associated infections, we must do all we can to minimise the risk. Hand washing must become a habit that is integral to healthcare culture and openly discussed. Patients should be encouraged to feel comfortable to ask staff if they have washed their hands before treating them. Equally, staff should also ensure that visitors wash their hands and should provide advice where necessary.”


Since its launch in 2004, the campaign has been adopted by all NHS acute trusts in England and Wales and remains a top priority, with independent research revealing that there has been a two-and-a-half fold increase in alcohol handrub and soap usage since the campaign’s implementation.


Martin Fletcher, Chief Executive of the NPSA said:


“Encouraging good hand hygiene practice in all healthcare settings is one of the NPSA’s key tasks and it is very encouraging to know that the work that has been developed here can be shared more widely.


“While the success of the campaign depends heavily on the level of local support, it will be helped by the strength of the materials and the clear messages that stress the importance of good hand hygiene at the point of care. 


“The NPSA has highlighted the WHO’s suggestion that greater impact in reducing healthcare associated infections can be gained by following ‘five moments’ of care and these are outlined in the staff guidance that accompanies the toolkit.”


A range of resources have been developed to support the campaign’s implementation, including posters for wards, signs to direct to highlight hand-cleaning facilities, leaflets for patients and healthcare workers and an implementation handbook, designed to educate, prompt and enable healthcare workers to clean their hands at the right time, every time.




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 Northern Ireland campaign materials can be viewed on the DHSSPS’s website.
  3. The campaign is strongly linked to the World Health Organisation’s Global Patient Safety Challenge: Clean Care is Safer Care.
  4. The campaign will initially appear in hospitals throughout Northern Ireland.  A further campaign for community healthcare facilities such as GP practices and nursing homes is currently being developed. Similarly the campaign is currently being extended to primary care, mental health, care and ambulance trusts in England and Wales.
  5. The five main ‘moments’ for hospital hygiene for staff are before patient contact, before an aseptic task, after body fluid exposure risk, after patient contact and after contact with patient surroundings.
  6. For more information on the ongoing independent evaluation (NOSEC study) of the campaign in England and Wales.
  7. 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.