Every health care worker plays a vital part in helping to minimise the risk of cross infection – for example, by making certain that hands are properly washed, the clinical environment is as clean as possible, ensuring knowledge and skills are continually updated and by educating patients and visitors. Standard precautions (formerly known as universal precautions) underpin routine safe practice, protecting both staff and our residents from infection. By applying standard precautions at all times and to all residents, best practice becomes second nature and the risks of infection are minimised. They include: 1 achieving optimum hand hygiene
2 using personal protective equipment
3 safe handling and disposal of sharps
4 safe handling and disposal of clinical waste
1. Hand hygiene
Hand hygiene is widely acknowledged to be the single most important activity for reducing the spread of disease, yet evidence suggests that many health care workers do not decontaminate their hands as often as they need to or use the correct technique which means that areas of the hands can be missed. We receive training and prompts from managers and colleagues alike to ensure correct hand washing is adopted at all times The diagram attached demonstrates the hand hygiene procedure that should be followed when washing with soap and water or using an alcohol hand gel or rub. Hands should be decontaminated before direct contact with patients and after any activity or contact that contaminates the hands, including following the removal of gloves. While alcohol hand gels and rubs are a practical alternative to soap and water, alcohol is not a cleaning agent. Hands that are visibly dirty or potentially grossly contaminated must be washed with soap and water and dried thoroughly. Hand preparation increases the effectiveness of decontamination. You should: * keep nails short, clean and polish free
* avoid wearing wrist watches and jewellery, especially rings with ridges or stones * artificial nails must not be worn
* any cuts and abrasions should be covered with a waterproof dressing. Remove your wristwatch and any bracelets and roll up long sleeves before washing your hands (and wrists). In addition, bear in mind the following points:
Adequate hand washing facilities must be available and easily accessible in all residents areas, treatment rooms, sluices and kitchens. Basins in clinical areas should have elbow or wrist lever operated mixer taps or automated controls and be provided with liquid soap dispensers, paper hand towels and foot-operated waste bins (NHS Estates, 2002).Alcohol hand gel must also be available at ‘point of care’ in all primary and secondary care settings (National Patient Safety Agency (2004).
2. Using personal protective equipment
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is used to protect both myself and our residents from the risks of cross-infection. It may also be required for contact with hazardous chemicals and some pharmaceuticals. PPE includes items like gloves, aprons, masks, goggles or visors. In certain situations such as theatre, it may also include hats and footwear. Disposable gloves
Gloves should be worn whenever there might be contact with blood and body fluids, mucous membranes or non intact skin. They are not a substitute for hand washing. They should be put on immediately before the task to be performed, then removed and discarded as soon as the procedure is completed. Hands must always be washed following their removal.
Disposable plastics aprons
These should be worn whenever there is a risk of contaminating clothing with blood and body fluids and when a residents has a known infection, for example, direct residents care, bed making or when decontaminating equipment. You should discard them as soon as the intended task is completed and then wash your hands. They must be stored safely so that they don’t accumulate dust which can act as a...