Setting higher standards in hand hygiene to prevent healthcare acquired infections in care homes Why refilling dispensers and bottles of hand sanitiser/alcohol gel may not be a great idea, and other important best practice hand sanitising tips.

 

It’s that time of year again when our care home customers are stocking up on hand sanitisers to help protect their staff and residents from unnecessary outbreaks.

Care homes unite large numbers of people in one place with many of them being highly susceptible to catching infections. In care home settings, residents, staff and visitors are in shared living environments and therefore also share bacteria which can lead to infection outbreaks (Utsumi et al, 2010).

The elderly are more susceptible to illness and in some cases, infections can be life-threatening. It should be in the interest of everyone involved in care to keep the risk of a spread of infections to an absolute minimum. Care home staff need to ensure that a high standard of infection prevention and control is always carried out. It is important for staff to understand how to avoid outbreaks and how to detect and manage them.

This week, one of our customers asked us for information on providing them with personal issue hand gel bottles for their staff to carry around with them, plus a 5 litre refill container so they could ‘top them up’  when they needed to.

This is what we told them:

We can supply you with the personal issue bottles of hand sanitiser no problem, however we don’t sell or promote the practice of refilling bottles from a bulk container, as we know from our experience and from talking to infection prevention professionals, that this is not best practice, and we will only ever actively promote product solutions which we know to be fit for purpose.

And here’s why:

Alcohol sanitisers are designed to be used when access to soap and running water is not practical.

This means that the alcohol is the only means by which transmission of infectious agents from the hands can be prevented, and as a result, the quality and efficacy of the product being used is absolutely critical.

  • Re filling containers could introduce contamination that shouldn’t be present in the product, this could be physical as well as microbiological.
  • If alcohol evaporates from the product, then efficacy will be affected and as a result the product may not provide the level of protection expected.
  • Any environment where refilling takes place needs to be clean and hygienic
  • Alcohol is volatile and flammable. Sources of ignition including static discharge should be eliminated. Our product manufacturers fill their containers in a regulated environment using specialist equipment to control these risks.

    Hand Washing, using sanitizing gel

To summarise, the potential problems associated with refilling bottles could lead to more significant risks to heath than may be posed by the correct disposal of plastic packaging.

NB: Our products are packaged in sealed containers so you can be assured that the product always meets our specification in full and is fully compliant with infection prevention and CQC standards. You can view our range here.

Here are some other things to consider when selecting a fit for purpose hand sanitiser to protect your staff and residents from outbreaks

How can I ensure that a hand sanitiser I select is going to be effective?

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  and World Health Organisation (WHO) guidance recommends use of an alcohol based hand sanitiser containing a minimum of 60% alcohol as the active ingredient ,compliant with BS EN 1500:2013  

When is it safe to sanitise hands and when is it not?

It should be remembered that alcohol sanitisers are not suitable for use on hands that are dirty, contaminated and soiled, e.g. faeces and secretions, or during outbreaks of diarrhoeal illness, e.g. Norovirus and C diff. In these instances, washing hands with mild soap and water is of paramount importance.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) claims that ‘hand sanitising may be of benefit when used after hand cleansing, but it should not be regarded as a substitute for soap and water since sanitisers will not remove any contamination from the hands.’

Hand sanitising with an alcohol based sanitiser, with a minimum of 60% alcohol as an active ingredient, can be a very good substitute to washing hands, provided hands are not physically dirty, and does not require water, to kill germs and provide a high level of hand hygiene and skin disinfection on visibly clean hands.

So, I want to ask you two questions:

  1. Is your home currently refilling hand sanitiser or soap dispensers from a bulk fill container? 

If so, you are currently non-compliant, and it is only a question of time before CQC and/or infection prevention will pick up on this and insist that you upgrade your hand hygiene provision to fit for purpose, hygienically sealed cartridge based systems.

  1. Does the hand sanitiser you are currently purchasing meet the minimum requirement of 60% alcohol active ingredient?

If not, you are literally wasting your money and putting your staff and residents at greater risk of infection – which is ironic, since that is the purpose of the product in the first place, to reduce potential outbreaks!

Here at Hcsuk, we can provide a comprehensive range of support materials to provide timely hand hygiene reminders in your care home. Our support package offers innovative training and awareness materials to drive high rates of compliance amongst residents, staff and visitors.

We have a range of compliance materials, ranging from sanitising boards and dispenser surrounds to posters and hand hygiene guides, all aiming to drive hand hygiene awareness

If you would like further advice, guidance or assistance on any aspect of hand hygiene from an expert company who you can trust and who are passionate about working with you to help you improve your standards of hand hygiene, then please get in touch today on [email protected] or call us on 01773 713713 and will provide you with the right advice.

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