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Last Updated: Friday, 19 December, 2003, 00:02 GMT
Doctors fail to wash their hands
NHS staff are advised to wash their hands after seeing patients
Nurses may be much better than doctors when it comes to washing their hands.

A study at one GP practice in Wales has found that the surgery's two nurses washed their hands much more often than its three resident doctors.

Over the course of a year, the nurses washed their hands an average of 1,248 times. This compared to an average of just 359 times for each doctor.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, Dr Alan Stone said it suggested nurses are more conscientious.

All NHS staff are encouraged to wash their hands after treating patients as a way of reducing the risks of passing on infections.

There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that nurses are much better at it than doctors.

Guess who will be serving the cake
Dr Alan Stone
When staff at Canna Surgery in Cardiff moved into new premises, Dr Stone decided to carry out a study to see if they were washing their hands.

Liquid soap dispensers were installed in the consulting rooms of its two nurses and three GPs.

Soap use

At the end of the year, Dr Stone calculated how much soap each staff member had used and how often they washed their hands.

The best performing doctor washed their hands 577 times during the 12-month period - on average once every six patients.

The worst used the dispenser just 115 times - on average once every 20 patients.

The best performing nurse washed their hands 1,346 times - about once every three patients.

The other nurse used the dispenser 1,150 times - roughly once ever two patients.

Neither of the nurses and just one of the GPs knew about the study.

Dr Stone said the study should prompt other surgeries to carry out a similar audit.

"Nurses are more conscientious handwashers than doctors," he said.

"These results will not necessarily reflect handwashing practices in all teams but form a basis on which others may conduct similar audits.

"Nurses in this primary care team have shown greater attention to personal hygiene than doctors."

Dr Stone said he planned to put the findings to good use when it comes to the practice's Christmas party.

"Guess who will be serving the cake," he said.

NHS hygiene 'not up to scratch'
15 Jan 03  |  Health

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