ST GEORGE’S Hospital has been named a pioneer site as part of a national campaign to stop patients catching infections while staying in hospital.

The ‘clean your hands’ campaign, launched today by health minister Lord Warner, hopes to improve hand hygiene among doctors and nurses in a bid to prevent them spreading infections to patients.

Research has shown that infections are reduced by 10-50 per cent when healthcare staff regularly clean their hands.

St George’s is one of six hospitals to be announced as a pioneer site for the programme, which will be rolled out to all UK trusts over the course of the next year.

Commenting on the trust’s new status as a pioneer site, Chris Streather, one of three new medical directors at St George’s, said:

‘We know that good hand hygiene is a simple but practical way of fighting infections inside hospitals.

‘But we also know that one of the barriers that prevents doctors and nurses from keeping their hands clean is the fact that they are very busy. When that happens, hand hygiene is often not the foremost thing on their minds.

‘What this campaign does is reinforce the absolute medical necessity of having good hand hygiene in hospitals while offering effective solutions to help staff clean their hands more often.

‘Reducing infections is a top priority for St George’s, and we are delighted to be at the forefront of this campaign.’

St George’s was one of six trusts that successfully bid to become a test site for the ‘clean your hands’ campaign in August of last year.

Staff who took part in the trial used a special alcohol gel instead of soap, while a targeted education programme emphasised the need for them to clean their hands more often.

Dr Streather explains why alcohol gel is such an important element of the campaign:

‘Staff need to wash their hands both before and after they come into contact with patients,’ he continues.

‘But if you’re a nurse on a busy shift for example, you might come into contact with patients as many as 30 times in a single hour.

“Washing your hands properly with soap takes about half a minute. This could mean spending 15 minutes of every hour just washing your hands.

“Alcohol gel on the other hand takes just seconds to use, and is just as powerful.”

Controversially, the NHS-wide campaign launched today calls on patients to challenge members of staff who have not cleaned their hands properly.

But Dr Streather is adamant that staff should not feel threatened.

‘When patients come into hospital, they expect first class treatment – and that includes the expectation that doctors and nurses will keep their hands clean and free of infections,’ he adds.

“If a patient feels that a member of staff hasn’t cleaned their hands, then they should say so.

‘This isn’t about patients confronting staff. It’s about confronting the very real issue of infection control.’

Staff at St George’s Hospital have used alcohol gel for the last two years. Gel dispensers have been placed by the end of nearly every bed, by every clinical hand washing sink, and have recently been given to staff in the form of a personal dispenser which can be carried around with them at all times.