SCOTLAND: Hospital staff too busy to wash hands says NHS chief
Posted: May 28th, 2009 - 8:32pm
A senior Lothian health official has suggested some hospital staff are simply too busy to wash their hands.
NHS Lothian Health Board vice-chairman Eddie Egan was speaking as it emerged that in certain departments, almost a quarter of staff are failing to wash their hands regularly.
The simple hygiene measure is seen as a key tool in the fight against superbugs.
New figures show that while some Lothian departments hit 98 per cent "compliance" with handwashing, others were as low as 77 per cent. At the same time, board members were told, cases of the potentially fatal C.difficile bug have gone up in the last month.
And while medical director Dr Charles Swainson suggested tougher action against staff who did not follow the guidelines, Mr Egan hit back, blaming over-worked staff and even poor sink facilities.
"If people are not following policy I have no problem with personal conversations.
"But sometimes the nature of the work means people are rushing about because thousands of people are coming through the doors and facilities are not up to scratch.
"That's why we are hitting 77 per cent in some parts and 98 per cent in others."
Dr Swainson is known to be furious that failure of such a simple and old-fashioned procedure could undo other good work which has taken place to tackle superbugs.
He is also aware of the damage bad statistics can do, after it emerged in 2006 that Lothian was the worst health board in Scotland for C.diff deaths, when 40 people lost their lives.