World Hand Hygiene Day: The importance of effective hand hygiene


5th May 2021


Today, we're celebrating World Hand Hygiene Day, by reminding ourselves and our colleagues the importance of effective hand hygiene in reducing the risk of infectious diseases.

Happy World Hand Hygiene Day!

The theme for World Hand Hygiene Day 2021 is “Seconds save lives – achieve effective hand hygiene at the point of care”.

So what does "at the point of care" mean?

According to WHO: "The point of care refers to the place where three elements come together: the patient, the health care worker, and care or treatment involving contact with the patient or their surroundings."

washing hands by a sink

Elements required to achieve effective hand hygiene:

  • Adequate facilities, with an appropriate ratio of sinks and alcohol gel available at the point of care.

  • Education, to ensure that staff understand when and how to wash or gel their hands, and how to monitor and improve hand hygiene practice.

  • Improvement strategies, to identify areas where hand hygiene practice is sub-optimal, and to launch effective improvement initiatives.

  • Innovation, to embrace the latest science to improve hand hygiene.

  • Partnerships, to ensure that everybody is involved in effective hand hygiene practice, including patients, visitors, and all members of staff.

patient wiping hands with Clinell wipe

5 Moments for Hand Hygiene

One of the cornerstones of effective hand hygiene practice at the point of care is the WHO’s 5 Moments for Hand Hygiene. These are designed to be a simple and memorable way to remind staff to undertake hand hygiene during patient care, when it matters most.

1. Before touching a patient, e.g. before assisting a patient to move/wash/eat.

2. Before clean/aseptic procedures, e.g. before a wound dressing.

3. After body fluid exposure/risk, e.g. after disposal of a bedpan/urinal/vomit bowl.

4. After touching a patient, e.g. after taking blood pressure/pulse.

5. After touching patient surroundings, e.g. after leaving a single room/bay.

5 moments hand hygiene illustration

5 Moments of Hand Hygiene Resources

Whilst these 5 moments are focussed on delivering patient care, the principles of contamination control apply to all walks of life. The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that we need to remind ourselves and one another about the importance of hand hygiene, to prevent the spread of infectious diseases as often as possible.

To find out more information about the 5 Moments for Hand Hygiene, you can download our resources pack from our Hand Hygiene page. Help spread the word about hand hygiene by sharing this article on social.

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