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Clean hands mean safer patient care

World Hand Hygiene Day 2013: Clean hands mean safer patient care

As World Hand Hygiene Day approaches on Sunday 5 May 2013, district health boards (DHBs) and health care workers throughout New Zealand can celebrate a positive step in improving hand hygiene practice.

Since October 2012, all 20 DHBs have been actively participating in the Hand Hygiene New Zealand programme – a national quality improvement programme to reduce healthcare associated infections by improving hand hygiene practice in New Zealand health care facilities. Each DHB has a well-developed local hand hygiene programme that includes auditing and reporting of hand hygiene compliance to a national hand hygiene database three times a year.

“The latest national hand hygiene results are very encouraging. The data shows hand hygiene practice has significantly improved since the beginning of the programme,” says Dr Joshua Freeman, Clinical Lead, Hand Hygiene New Zealand.

“Preliminary data also suggest that Staphylococcus aureus bloodstream infections are decreasing.”

He says improving hand hygiene means a safer environment is created for patients, which is the ultimate aim of the programme.

March 2013 audit results showed a significant increase of more than four percent in the national compliance rate since October 2012, from 62.1 percent to 66.6 percent, and the number of DHBs with a compliance rate above seventy percent has increased from four to seven.

“These results are a huge credit to the work each and every DHB is doing to make hand hygiene an organisational priority,” says Dr Freeman.

“We thank each DHB, infection control teams and health care workers for their commitment to improve hand hygiene practice and prevent harm to patients.

“Changing habits and establishing effective system changes to improve hand hygiene practice throughout large organisations and among diverse professional groups takes time, but we are reaching an exciting point where a shift is beginning to occur.”

Despite this positive outlook, it is still important DHBs continue to build on the gains made.

Looking at new ways to change organisational culture and practices is a critical next step. In line with the World Health Organization’s focus for World Hand Hygiene Day, Hand Hygiene New Zealand is exploring the opportunity for DHBs to introduce patient participation into their hand hygiene programmes. This includes the development of a patient participation guidance document for DHBs.

“The responsibility for hand hygiene always rests firmly with the health care worker,” says Dr Freeman.

“However, empowering patients to remind health care workers about hand hygiene at the appropriate times can play a powerful role in driving further improvements in practice, ultimately resulting in better patient outcomes.”

Hand Hygiene New Zealand recommends health care workers perform hand hygiene according to World Health Organization’s 5 moments for hand hygiene approach. This requires hand hygiene to be performed at the following times (irrespective of whether or not gloves are used):

· Before patient contact

· Before a procedure

· After a procedure or body fluid exposure risk

· After patient contact

· After contact with patient surroundings.

Hand Hygiene New Zealand is one component of the Health Quality & Safety Infection Prevention and Control programme, which aims to reduce healthcare associated infections in New Zealand. The HHNZ programme is delivered by Auckland District Health Board on behalf of the Health Quality and Safety Commission.

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