Hand hygiene improvement strategies: US vs UK

Gerry Lacey discusses the changes in emphasis that are being driven in the US by the Leapfrog Group Hand Hygiene Standard and the lessons that can be learned in the UK

Hand hygiene compliance is not just an issue in the UK, but worldwide, with compliance rates as low as 6%-14% when both the World Health Organization (WHO) Five Moments and Six-Step Hand Hygiene Technique are assessed. Hand hygiene strategies in both the UK and the US share many similarities due to the universal importance of infection control in healthcare. However, there are some differences, with significant recent developments in the US in terms of their regulations/standards, hand hygiene initiatives, how they monitor hand hygiene, and the commitment and buy-in from senior management. Healthcare facilities need support from the top to improve hand hygiene compliance rates. This is the only way that lasting change will happen. This article will describe hand hygiene improvement strategies in the US, and how this compares to strategies in the UK.

Hand hygiene worldwide stats

Hand hygiene compliance is a worldwide concern, and various scientific studies assess the extent of the problem, its consequences, and potential solutions. To measure hand hygiene effectiveness, we must examine both “the when” and “the how” i.e. performed at one of the ‘Five Moments’ and using the WHO Hand Hygiene Technique. The true compliance rate is when hand hygiene has taken place at the right time and performed correctly. Currently, compliance with the ‘Five Moments’ is as low as 40%. 1 However, for the quality of hand hygiene compliance is much lower at 8-15% 2,3,4

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