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 or call us on 01773 713713 and will provide you with the right advice.


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Customer Testimonials

“We’ve built a strong working relationship with Hcsuk over many years, having used them to source, install and service our medical training equipment. We have always found the team very professional, helpful, and well-organised. We’d like to give a particular shout out to Phil, the technician / engineer who has been the consistent friendly face visiting our business to inspect and test our mobility hoists every 6 months. Thank you for all your support and advice.”

P. B. (Care Manager), Blue Bird Care Ltd

You are part of a great company, if we can help you grow by contracting you out to our sites its good for you, but it’s great for us because your service is fantastic, very efficient, everyone within Hcsuk is super helpful in answering queries and every time we’ve had an issue, Hcsuk has always been there to solve the problem almost immediately, which is fantastic.

Leicestershire County Council

Truly exceptional levels of customer service, the best I have experienced for many years. Very helpful staff made follow up calls to ask how the equipment was performing and supplied extra user instructions to supplement the manufacturers manual. I would not hesitate to order from this company again.

Savills Estate Agents

We would just like to pass on our thanks for all of your help with our orders and would be pleased if you would also pass on our thanks to the manufacturers for being so accommodating in meeting our requirements. We have found everyone very helpful.

Lincs Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Since I set up the account for Hcsuk over 18 months ago I have found them to be an excellent advocate of our products. They have been willing to learn about the technical and servicing elements to our hoists and the sales staff have really taken on board and proactively promoted our range where possible. I feel that as a company Hcsuk have got the desire and right people in place for growing in this competitive industry. They seem to push themselves to go that little bit further and offer that little bit more to stand out from the rest. May our relationship continue going from strength to strength.

Joerns Healthcare

As a care home manager I have used Hcsuk for my supplies for the last 20 years in two homes. I have always found them to be helpful and reliable. Their products are of the highest standards, they are able to source anything. The delivery service is prompt and regular so I do not have to keep large amounts of stock. They supply extra services such as servicing and repairs which are done efficiently, and training in COSHH. The reps are pleasant and helpful bringing new products to my attention but are never ”pushy”. Aftercare is good, any problems soon sorted. I would recommend them highly and would not think of using anyone else.

Littleover Nursing Home

HPC have supplied Hcsuk (Health Care Services Ltd) for well over a decade now and we would consider them to be a high quality and professional business run in an organised and progressive manor. We do not rank our customers or have a preferred customer status but if we were to introduce such a scheme I can confirm that Hcsuk would easily make such a grade.

HPC Healthline

As a manufacturer we look for key values in a distributor some of these include honesty, reliability, commitment and reputation. Hcsuk carry all of these and many more. With a twenty plus year working relationship we now place Jo and the team at the top of our distributor list. I have no hesitation in recommending Hcsuk to any prospective manufacturer or customer and wish Jo and the team all the best for the future.

Cleenol Group Ltd

It is brilliant that we are able to ring Health Care Services and that you will go the extra mile to get us the stock we need as soon as possible.

Rykneld View Nursing Home

Just to say a huge thankyou to you and your fantastic team, and I mean that from the Heart. I have never before experienced such a person centred company.

Hampton Grange Nursing Home

What I like about working with Health Care Services is the relationship we have built up and the personal service. The homes report that you always deliver on time, the quality is consistently good and the prices competitive. Your team members are always willing to go that extra mile for us and if ever we have an issue there is always someone there to save the day.

Eastgate Care

Thanks to Jo for going over and above to get us our items in time for our special event at Buddleia House – it was very much appreciated. A massive thankyou for your continued assistance as a supplier to ourselves.

Buddleia House

We have always received excellent services from everyone at HCS at our 2 care homes, especially Lee, Jo and Phil. Always professional with a quick response time. Nothing ever seems too much trouble. Recently I had to use them personally for equipment to enable my mothers discharge from hospital. I had a response within the hour for prices and delivery came straight from the manufacturer to speed up delivery. Phil arrived at the same time to put the equipment together for us! I can’t thank them enough for putting our minds at ease and for the continued support from a personal and professional perspective. I’d recommend them to anyone requiring care equipment and its nice to support local businesses. Especially when they do such a good job!!

Orla House

I contacted HCSUK trying to find a hoist that could be operated unaided by the client. I had become very disheartened, no-one was really helpful until I spoke to Donna at HCSUK.

Donna was incredibly understanding, her professionalism raised my spirits again. Everything Donna said she would do she did, including arranging for me to speak to Andrew the salesman who like Donna was incredibly helpful, happy to bring two machines to demonstrate.

I can’t recommend them highly enough. They are good people.

Penelope C

I spoke to Lee Atterbury 2 weeks ago, when I was despairing about the prospect of finding any equipment to help my husband in the bathroom. I had tried all the popular brands, but none were right for his needs.

When I spoke to Lee he understood what I was saying and set about trying to find what we need. He was so patient and understanding and gave me the confidence to explore outside the box.

I spoke to Lee today and was able to tell him that we, hopefully, have found the solution. I am sorry that it was not a product you sell, though you may in the future, but will certainly look first to HCS for other products.

Thank you so much to Lee for first class customer service.

Christine G, Sheffield

VAT Relief Information

Conditions for VAT relief for disabled people

Some of the products which can be purchased from the Hcsuk website are available for an eligible person to purchase without paying VAT on them. HM Revenue and Customs sets out the conditions when equipment for disabled people might be free of VAT and how to claim exemption from paying VAT on these products.

Products a can only be exempt from VAT when all the following conditions are met:

  1. The customer is eligible to purchase supplies at the zero rate
  2. The goods are for the personal or domestic use of the customer
  3. The goods and services are eligible to be supplied at the zero rate

A more detailed explanation of each of these conditions is given below, but you should visit the HM Revenue and Customs Website to fully understand the conditions

The product must be being purchased for someone who is chronically ill or disabled.

A person is ‘chronically sick or disabled’ if he/she is a person:

It does not include a frail elderly person who is otherwise able-bodied or any person who is only temporarily disabled or incapacitated, such as with a broken limb.

‘personal or domestic’ use means that the supply must be made available specifically for the use of an eligible individual.

You don’t have to physically buy the goods in person. If your parent, guardian or wife or husband buys the goods and services for you, then you won’t be charged VAT.

What counts as personal or domestic use?

Personal or domestic use means that the goods or services are supplied for your own private use, rather than for business purposes. Also, the goods or services must be just for your own use – not for use by anyone else, or chronically sick or disabled people in general. However, if you and your partner are both chronically sick or disabled and you buy goods or services for both of you to use, then you won’t have to pay VAT.

Products which are offered for sale on this website which qualify for VAT relief to be claimed for an eligible person.

The products which can be bought without paying VAT are:

Only the products on our site carrying the VAT exemption price (the smaller price marked ex VAT) are eligible to be purchased this way and you must tick the box on the basket page indicating that you wish to claim VAT exemption on the items in your basket that are eligible for VAT relief.

How to claim

On the my basket page of this website a link to the online declaration form is provided if the basket contains a product that qualifies for VAT relief. You must tick the box to state you wish to claim VAT relief on the eligible product and complete in full the reason by which you are ‘chronically sick or disabled’ and name and address of the claimant. If possible the person making the claim should complete this form, but a family member, carer or medical professional may complete the form on the claimants behalf. To submit the claim and receive the VAT relief, click the ‘Submit VAT Relief Claim’ button before proceeding to the checkout.

Please note that all orders submitted with a VAT relief claim form completed are checked before the order is processed.

It is necessary to complete a separate claim form each time a qualifying product is purchased from Hcsuk.


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