Why mobile hand wash units should be an integral part of any infection control policy
The provision of soap and water hand wash units in care homes is vital at any time – and the current situation makes it more so. Importantly, they must also be situated in places where they can be quickly and easily accessed by residents, staff and visitors.
The importance of effective hand washing was outlined in an article for Nursing Times online.
“Care home residents share air, space, food and equipment, so they also share organisms that can easily cause infection outbreaks, such as viruses and bacteria. They are also more prone and vulnerable to infections, which can lead to death. Care home staff therefore need to be adequately trained to prevent, detect and manage an outbreak of infectious disease, and care homes must have an outbreak plan ready, to minimise the number of people affected and the harm done.”
The same at-risk situation as hospitals, but can easily be more acute with the fragility of the residents with reduced protection from their immune systems and their close day-to-day proximity to other residents.
Having planned controls in place for controlling any outbreaks will help minimise the distress caused to residents, particularly if visitors have to be restricted, and can assist support staff by reducing extra workload.
The Department of Health Guidelines Prevention and control of infection in care homes highlights this in the following extract.
Adequate hand washing facilities must be provided where they’re needed
“Hand hygiene is widely acknowledged to be the single most important activity that reduces the spread of infection. Yet evidence suggests that many care workers do not decontaminate their hands when required nor use the correct technique. Hand hygiene should be performed immediately before and after every episode of direct person contact and after any activity or contact that could potentially result in hands becoming contaminated.
“Hand hygiene facilities that include, as a minimum, a hand wash basin, supplied with hot and cold water, (preferably via a mixer tap), liquid soap and disposable paper towels, should be available and easily accessible.
“A lack of or inappropriate facilities should be brought to the attention of the Registered Provider or Manager of the care home who has a duty of care to ensure that there are adequate facilities and materials available to prevent cross-infection in the home.
“The portable hand wash sink can help control outbreaks by supporting isolated residents or provide back-up support for existing hand washing facilities. They can be used in rest areas or in reception hallways for visitors and staff. They are easy to use and as they can be placed at point of need so are ideal for residents, who may have restricted mobility, allowing them and staff access to warm water in their own rooms.”
They are also easy for less able residents to use as they are activated by the sensor and only need a hand to pass in front of it. Safe to use, no taps are needed, and the warm water shuts off automatically after the cycle has completed.
It also worth noting that as the sinks dispense warm water at controlled temperatures, within the HSE guidelines, they remove the risk of scalding.
The units can provide back-up support for existing hand washing facilities, can be used in rest areas for residents, or in reception hallways for visitors and staff.
They are easy to use and as they can be placed at point of need are ideal for residents, who may have restricted mobility, allowing them to have access to warm water in their own rooms.