No one wants to have dirty hands, but in a hospital environment it is more important than ever.
That’s why Stoke Mandeville Hospital has been offering hygiene tests to all visitors to show how easy it is to carry germs around with you.
Although it is an ongoing priority for all staff to have excellent hand hygiene, with random checks and audits carried out on wards, the hospital has been keen to raise awareness of the importance of visitors keeping their hands clean.
Dr Jean O’Driscoll, director of infection prevention and control at the hospital trust, said: “When people come into the hospital they can be carrying bugs such as MRSA and they wouldn’t be aware of it.
“Something like 10% of the population can be carrying it so if they don’t wash their hands before touching a patient then they can spread germs to the patient.”
As a way of showing how many germs people have on their hands, visitors could undergo a test checking for ATP, an energy molecule found in food animals and plants.
Nurse Niamh Whittome said: “If they are not cleaned off effectively these molecules can grow bacteria.”
A swab of the fingertips, the place most likely to collect dirt, showed how many thousand ATP molecules are found.
Reporter Marcus Chippindale had around 5,000 molecules on his hands, while photographer Derek Pelling had three times as many. The hospital recommends washing your hands if you have more than 3,000 present.
Dr O’Driscoll said: “We want to promote hand hygiene just before patient contact so even if people don’t wash their hands at the entrance to the hospital at least they’re doing it at the most risky time.”