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Journal attacks “populist” anti-HAI initiatives


UK Government initiatives to combat hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) are “pandering to populism” and are not based on fact, claims an editorial in a leading medical journal.

The Lancet editorial said there is little evidence that hospital “deep-cleans” or medical staff wearing short sleeves will help stop the pathogens.

The claim comes after Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced plans to cleanse hospitals, and Health Secretary Alan Johnson ordered a new dress code for staff which advises against long-sleeved coats and ties for doctors.

But the editorial says Government research has shown there is little evidence to support use of short sleeves.

“Disinfection of high-touch surfaces is what is needed, more so than removing visible dirt,” it said.

“The public understandably wants clean wards and crisp uniforms, but politicians must stop pandering to populism about hospital cleanliness and listen to the evidence.

“Brown also plans to double the number of hospital matrons, to check on ward cleaning, and accost doctors wearing long sleeves.

“They would be better employed making sure doctors, nurses and visitors wash their hands properly – the proven way to stop hospital-acquired infections.”

But Chief Nursing Officer Christine Beasley said: “These measures are just part of a wider set of measures to reduce hospital-acquired infections. The fact is, there is no single remedy.

“Long sleeves and watches simply get in the way of washing and decontaminating the hands, wrists and forearms. This is exactly the point of ‘bare below the elbows’.”

Copyright © PA Business 2007


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