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Last Updated: Friday, 12 January 2007, 15:38 GMT
Row over hand washing initiative
A pair of dirty hands
It is hoped the initiative will cut MRSA and other infections
A 2.5m campaign which uses talking posters to encourage Scots to wash their hands has been launched.

Health Minister Andy Kerr unveiled the initiative to improve national awareness of hand hygiene.

TV adverts and an internet site will be used to promote the message as well as motion-sensored talking posters in toilets in bars and shopping centres.

The SNP said the money would be better spent fighting MRSA and other infections in hospitals.

Launching the campaign in East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire, Mr Kerr said: "The key message of the campaign is 'Germs - wash your hands of them'.

The money being set aside for this should be put back into frontline services
Dr Nanette Milne
Scottish Conservatives

"It's a simple message, but washing our hands is something that we don't always do perhaps because our hands don't look dirty, we don't have time, or we don't believe it makes any difference.

"But it does make a difference. The most common way germs are spread is by people's hands and they can carry a range of bugs, including food poisoning and diarrhoea, viruses like flu and more serious germs like MRSA and E.coli."

The campaign won the support of the Royal College of Nursing Scotland and also the doctors' organisation, the British Medical Association Scotland.

They both stressed the role hand washing could play in reducing hospital acquired infections.

All NHS boards will be given funds to employ a co-ordinator to run the campaign in their area.

Professor Didier Pittet, a leading worldwide expert in hand hygiene and adviser to the World Health Organisation, said: "By launching this national hand hygiene promotion campaign, health authorities, hospitals and stakeholders in Scotland are confirming their major commitment to making patient safety a daily reality at the bedside."

Frontline services

SNP health spokeswoman Shona Robison said the campaign had a serious point, but questioned whether the cost was the best use of the money.

She said: "Whether this is the best way to get the message across, or to spend the public's money, is open to question.

"Rather than using this cash on an advertising campaign, we should be looking at how to invest this 2.5m to fight MRSA and other infections on our wards and in our hospitals."

Dr Nanette Milne MSP, Scottish Conservative health spokeswoman, said: "On principle, it is important people are educated about the importance of washing hands, owing to the fear of passing on infections, such as MRSA and flu.

"However, I cannot welcome yet more co-ordinators and managers for each health board, the money being set aside for this should be put back into frontline services."

See reaction to the campaign

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