Failing to wash hands could become a disciplinary offence in NHS

NHS staff could be disciplined for not washing their hands or failing to take infection control seriously as part of their day-to-day role.

Reducing the number of super-bug infections such as MRSA and C-difficile across the NHS has become a key government priority following several high-profile cases last year when hospitals came under scrutiny.

A government strategy document, Clean, safe care published last week said employers and unions would work together to draw up guidance on how human resources processes can be best used to encourage good practice in infection control.

These include areas such as training, induction and disciplinary action. The strategy also said that NHS organisations need to ensure that all staff understand the importance of individual accountability and responsibility.

The document said “clear routes” should be developed to allow staff to report concerns about cleanliness and infection, as well as sharing best practice.

Cleaning staff, many of whom are employed by outsourcing providers, need to be properly trained and seen as part of a hospital’s health-care team, the document said.

Jo Webber, deputy director of policy at the NHS Confederation, which represents trusts, said a zero tolerance approach to infection must be embedded in the ethos of all NHS staff.

“This document highlights the work that has been done to tackle health care-associated infections and recognises that rates are decreasing,” she said.

“Healthcare professionals and managers will benefit from having such a comprehensive guideline, which presents a range of infection preventing measures in one place.”

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