Clean hands are the most effective tool in the fight against healthcare-associated infections.
That was the key message from Northern Ireland's Health Minister Michael McGimpsey as he launched the regional "cleanyourhands" campaign to highlight the importance of hand hygiene among healthcare staff and visitors.
Launching the campaign at the Mater Hospital in Belfast, Michael McGimpsey said: "Handwashing 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.
"By making hand hygiene a personal priority, each of us can play our part in making healthcare safer for all patients."
The minister has invested £9m in clean and safer care and last September set the challenging target to reduce MRSA by 10% and C. difficile by 20% by March 2009.
The "cleanyourhands" 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.
"Yes, I do and I also encourage staff to ensure that they follow the handwashing code within the Trust. We have in Sandwell Mental Health Trust an infection control nurse who carries out sessions and audits handwashing hygiene regularly and monitors that staff, service users and cares adhere to the policy." - Robert Peumalu, Sandwell Mental Health Trust, West Bromwich
"Primary Care Quality & Information Service, part of the National Public Health Service in Wales, is in the process of developing a toolkit for general practice in infection control following the Welsh community strategy Nov 2007 and 1000 lives campaign. It has a section on hand hygiene that reference the cleanyourhands campaign." - Jane Holloway, South Wales