Hand hygiene and infection prevention is now a top priority on the Government’s agenda, after a recent Westminster debate addressed the key infection prevention issues within healthcare settings. The debate addressed the use of electronic monitoring systems to measure hand hygiene compliance and reduce infection rates.
All parties present addressed the flaws of direct observation and the impact that capturing inaccurate hand hygiene data has on patients and the NHS. It also focused on how technology can improve hand hygiene compliance and what actions need to be taken to reduce costs and increase patient safety within the NHS.
Andrea Jenkyns, MP for Morley and Outwood, played a key role in the debate as she continues to actively campaign to improve hand hygiene ever since losing her dad to an MRSA in 2011. She said: “It is important that this debate draws attention to the fact that the current system of hand hygiene monitoring in hospitals needs updating and is inaccurate and outdated. There are better monitoring systems out there. The current system allows poor hand hygiene practice to spread and can put patients’ lives at risk.”
MPs Jim Shannon and Nigel Mills, and Shadow Minister for Health and Social Care Justin Madders, recognised the need for a change in the way that hand hygiene is measured. Justin Madders said: “Staff naturally wash their hands much more frequently when being observed directly, which results in clearly overstated compliance rates of 90% to 100%. Academic research has found that typical compliance is actually between 18% and 40%.”
Steven Barclay, Minister of State for the Department of Health and Social Care, acknowledged the potential of electronic monitoring to reduce infection rates and save money. He said: “One theme of the debate was whether the Government is doing enough to drive forward the use of technology. I recognise the limits of direct observation and how behavioural change may respond to those. That is why the Government is actively looking at the extent to which technology can facilitate this area.”
As a result of the debate, there emerged a clear consensus from all sides of the house that hand hygiene is an important issue, direct observation is not an appropriate means of monitoring hand hygiene compliance, whilst technology offers a clear way of improving compliance and reducing infections.
John Hines, director of research and development at Deb, said: “The debate proved a huge success and it was great to see MPs and Health Ministers joining forces to ensure infection prevention remains high on the Government’s list of priorities. Technology, if adopted in the right way, creates an opportunity to improve patient safety and reduce the £1 billion cost associated with healthcare associated infections. Now it’s time to take further action by working closely with the Government to ensure more hospitals are aware of the benefits of electronic monitoring systems. We want to see such systems replacing direct observation audits, freeing nurses’ time and paving the way for a safer NHS.”