HM18 image 2“Infections displaying antimicrobial resistance represent an increasingly serious threat to global public health, requiring action across government and society. With existing antimicrobial medicines becoming ineffective in the fight against infection, better hygiene and prevention measures are essential, says Mike Sullivan, managing director of GOJO Industries-Europe.

The 5th May marked the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) annual Save Lives: Clean Your Hands advocacy day, which this year highlighted the paramount importance that hand hygiene plays in the fight against antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

The hands of healthcare workers, their patients, and visitors are on the front line in the fight against the spread of infection in hospitals. AMR superbugs are micro-organisms which have evolved to overcome the effects of antimicrobial drugs, such as antibiotics.

Without effective antimicrobial drugs, the success of major surgery and other treatments, such as chemotherapy, is highly compromised. Infections that develop resistance to treatment can prolong common illness, lead to complications and in the worst case death.

Infections displaying AMR present a major threat to global public health. It is of paramount importance that the misuse and overuse of antimicrobial drugs is stopped, while funding for research into new antimicrobial drugs must be prioritised. At the same time, with existing antimicrobial medicines becoming ineffective in the fight against infection, better hygiene and prevention measures are essential.

Effective sanitation, hygiene, and infection prevention measures, including good hand hygiene, are simple but highly effective ways of preventing the spread of AMR, and reducing the incidence of infection in the first place. The correct choice and positioning of hand washing and sanitising solutions around a building should be high on the list of all healthcare and hospital facilities managers, along with appropriate signage and awareness-raising campaigns.

Making hand hygiene second nature

The right systems play a critical role in the promotion of healthy hand hygiene behaviour. To be truly successful, they need to combine good aesthetics, accessibility and ease of use, while being equipped with pleasant and effective hygienically advanced formulations. Innovative technology also helps, and that’s why touch-free dispensers are proving popular. Intuitively sensing the presence of hands, they dispense just the right amount of product every time, and the fact that they are touch-free also increases their hygiene rating.

Factory-sealed refills for soaps and sanitisers can also help in the fight against infection. The product inside is protected from contamination as it is sealed at the point of manufacture. This means that the soap or sanitiser is never open to the environment and so cross contamination from the air or other sources is prevented.

The efficacy of soap and sanitiser formulations is, of course, another crucial issue. Suppliers should be able to prove the effectiveness of their soaps or sanitisers against germs through independent scientific testing. Formulations that have been tested and passed in accordance with key hospital norms EN 1500, EN 14476 and EN 12791, provide assurance that they are safe for use in healthcare locations.

Hospital-grade product efficacy is only part of the solution in helping improve patient outcomes. The high frequency with which many healthcare workers have to use hygienic hand rub means that it is imperative that formulations are accessible throughout a facility, as well as gentle on the skin. Having a wide range of hand washing and sanitising options located throughout a healthcare facility can help boost hand hygiene behaviours in healthcare staff, who already make this part of their daily lives, and – more crucially – visitors and patients.

Co-ordinated action

HM18 image1The WHO has called for co-ordinated action in the fight against AMR. It is a complex problem affecting the whole of society, driven by many interconnected factors. As such, single, isolated interventions have limited impact and a joined-up effort is needed to minimise the emergence and spread of AMR.

Hand hygiene compliance is a cornerstone of this effort, helping to break the chain of infection and minimise the damaging impacts of superbug out breaks.

An holistic approach to hand hygiene

The WHO Save Lives: Clean Your Hands campaign will only succeed if we all work together to raise awareness about the risks of AMR, and break the chain of infection one pair of hands at a time.

As a member of the WHO Private Organisations for Patient Safety (POPS) group, GOJO Industries-Europe is a strong advocate of the Save Lives: Clean Your Hands campaign It  urges support for the WHO’s 2017 calls to action, which target a cross-section of influencers in the global healthcare sector:

  • Health workers: “Clean your hands at the right times and stop the spread of antibiotic resistance.”
  • Hospital Chief Executive Officers and Administrators: “Lead a year-round infection prevention and control programme to protect your patients from resistant infections.”
  • Policy makers: “Stop antibiotic resistance spread by making infection prevention and hand hygiene a national policy priority.”

Infection prevention and control (IPC) leaders: “Implement WHO’s Core Components for infection prevention, including hand hygiene, to combat antibiotic resistance.”