Scottish hospitals have been told that more needs to be done to improve hygiene in a bid to tackle infections like MRSA.
Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon issued the warning after figures from the first ever national audits on hand hygiene in the health service were published.
The Scottish Government has set a target of all hospitals achieving 90% compliance with hand hygiene practices – cleaning hands by washing them or by using an alcohol hand rub – by November 2008.
Good hand hygiene is recognised as being the most important factor in reducing and preventing avoidable illnesses, such as healthcare-acquired-infections like MRSA.
Two audits were carried out, and the first of these, in February this year, showed an overall compliance rating of 68%. That figure rose to 79% in the second audit, which was carried out in September.
But compliance rates varied across health boards, with figures in the most recent audit ranging from 59% in NHS Highland to 94% in NHS Forth Valley.
Health boards were rated using a “traffic lights” system, with boards that achieved compliance rates of 85% or above ranked as green, while those with rates of 75% to 84% were amber and those with rates of less than 75% were red – meaning they were only minimally compliant.
Ms Sturgeon said: “It is disappointing that not all boards are compliant with the green rating and more needs to be done to ensure that hand hygiene standards are as rigorous as possible.”
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