Patients are told to ask nurses: have you washed?

  1. Patients are told to ask nurses: have you washed?
    By Patrick Hennessy, Political Editor
    (Filed: 16/05/2004)


    Nurses are to suffer the ultimate indignity of having their personal hygiene questioned by patients.

    A new campaign against the hospital superbug MRSA, to be launched in the summer, is to target hospital staff who fail to wash their hands often enough.

    Nurses and other staff who come into contact with patients are to be issued with badges urging patients to ask them if they have cleaned their hands before treating them.

    Posters will be displayed in wards to reinforce the message, while alcohol hand wipes, said to be more efficient than soap and water, will be attached to hospital beds.

    The "clean your hands" campaign, which was piloted in six NHS trusts last year, has been prompted by public concern over the number of infections caused by MRSA and other bugs.

    The Department of Health believes that these cost the NHS about 1 billion a year and contribute to the death of 5,000 patients annually. Up to a third of these infections are preventable, ministers believe.

    John Reid, the Health Secretary, said: "These are the kind of practical measures that we want to see. Some of the ways of tackling this are not rocket science.

    "Sometimes it is the old-fashioned way of doing things, like cleaning your hands properly."

    Tim Yeo, the shadow health and education secretary, critised the idea, however, branding it as a gimmick.

    "This is treating the symptoms and not the cause - and doing so in what seems like a trivial way. It looks as though the minister is trying to wash his hands of the whole issue.

    "What is needed is not this cosmetic scheme but giving senior nurses on each ward the power to sign off whether the cleaning has been done properly, and for contractors not to be paid until it has.

    "So many patients are expressing concerns about infection rates. It's becoming a scandal. Many people will be asking why this is being treated in such a superficial and gimmicky way."

    Officially, ministers are claiming that a "rigorous evaluation" of the pilot scheme is still being carried out, although they admit that they are convinced the scheme has succeeded in bringing down infection rates.

    The Sunday Telegraph has learned, however, that the campaign will be extended to all NHS hospitals with an announcement expected in the summer.

    Details of the plan emerged just days after the Royal College of Nursing's annual conference heard that a new generation of young nurses was becoming "too posh to wash" their patients.

    Jeremy Bore, a general nurse working at Exeter Prison, told the conference that a "significant minority" of younger members of the profession said that they did not want to do "basic holistic care", including washing patients' feet and bottoms.

    Mr Bore added: "I think this is very disturbing. If I become too posh to wash I shouldn't be in the profession."

    Geraldine Cunningham, the director of the RCN's clinical leadership programme, said that the new Government drive raised some concerns about potential conflicts with patients.

    She added: "How does a patient deal with a staff member who becomes defensive after being asked if they have washed their hands?"

    Ruth Law, the lead nurse for infection control at St George's hospital in Tooting, south London, one of the six trusts to pilot the project, was enthusiastic, however.

    She said of the seven-month trial in two wards at St George's: "Senior staff were very keen to get involved and this trickled down to the juniors. We had posters up everywhere, and badges, some of which kept falling off, but I don't think there was any negative feedback.

    "Some of what we had was quite gimmicky. There were plastic aprons with slogans on, and mugs. People liked the novelty of it."

    MRSA, or methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus, is a superbug that has spread rapidly, alarming doctors because so few antibiotics are effective in treating it. In 1992, there were only 114 recorded cases in England and Wales. By 2003, this had risen to 5,561.

    Patients with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable. Scientists believe that the most basic of measures, including staff washing their hands before treating patients, would go a long way towards preventing the spread of infection. The bug tends to enter the body through a cut or a wound.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main...16/ixhome.html
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  2. 79 Comments

  3. by   Torachan
    You have to wear the badges. Fair enough. Wear them inside your shirt, in your pocket. If management gives you grief go to your union.

    This is insulting.
  4. by   teeituptom
    Quote from Torachan
    You have to wear the badges. Fair enough. Wear them inside your shirt, in your pocket. If management gives you grief go to your union.

    This is insulting.

    No its not

    not in the least is it insulting

    I make a point of washing my hands in front of pts and families so they can see that I do keep them clean at all times.

    doesnt hurt a bit to do this in the least
  5. by   teeituptom
    Quote from Torachan
    You have to wear the badges. Fair enough. Wear them inside your shirt, in your pocket. If management gives you grief go to your union.

    This is insulting.
    And I always display my badge proudly
  6. by   lisaloulou
    Of course its the nurses with the dirty mitts

    Oy
  7. by   Torachan
    agree wholeheartedly with lisaloulou......... what these badges are saying is that it is the nurses who are the cuplrets. No-one else. As a guy I can assure you that not many of us wash our hands after using the loo...... I do but not many do. That is a fact.
  8. by   Torachan
    A badge asking if the nurse has performed the Five rights would be more appropriate. By only asking nurses to wear the badge they are saying that we are solely responsible for the spread of nosocomial diseases. We are a part but only a part of the problem (not me of course ) Why don't they just get us to wear a yellow star of david? At least that would be telling it like it is
  9. by   nursemaa
    I think physicians should have to wear the badges too...I've seen many of them go from patient to patient without washing their hands!!
  10. by   gwenith
    If someone asks me if I have washed I sniff my armpit pull a face and say YES!!!

    I actually had a patient who would not let you touch her - ANYWHERE - unless she had seen you wash if you touched her she would slap your hands
  11. by   caroladybelle
    Quote from Torachan
    Why don't they just get us to wear a yellow star of david? At least that would be telling it like it is
    When do they make MDs wear them?

    And quite frankly, the yellow star is not an appropriate comparison. No one is going discriminate against, or send you to this gas chamber if you wear a button or neglect to wash your hands.
  12. by   renerian
    ARe they going to wash too? I have seen more docs not wash than nurses....


    renerian
  13. by   Hellllllo Nurse
    I read a study which concluded that physicians are least likely of all healthcare workers to wash their hands. Are they going to make the docs wear these badges, as well?

    Kind of like when you are behind a semi on the freeway, and see postings on the backs of the trucks that say "Am I driving safely? If not, call 1-800 blah blah"

    How about a sign in every hospital toom that says "Tell the administration of this hospital to staff appropriately, so that nurses have time to wash their hands properly."
  14. by   nurseunderwater
    um......do the the docs and cleaning folks have to wear them too?

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