Page last updated at 15:31 GMT, Sunday, 21 December 2008

Staff face sack for dirty hands

Hospital sign
A regime of "zero tolerance" is due to come in from next year

Doctors and nurses who do not wash their hands could be sacked under new rules to prevent the spread of hospital superbugs.

The Scottish Government is to introduce a "zero tolerance" regime on hand hygiene for hospital staff in January.

Those who repeatedly fail to comply have been warned they could face disciplinary action when the new rules are implemented.

Ministers previously set a 90% target for handwashing, to be met by February.

They now believe that target has been achieved ahead of schedule, but that still leaves up to 10% of staff failing to wash their hands often enough.

Serial offenders should face disciplinary action
Spokesman for Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon
A spokesman for Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said it was "unacceptable" for medical staff to flout hygiene rules.

He said: "We are now adopting a zero tolerance approach to non-compliance and all boards are expected to implement this policy from January 2009."

He added that a new campaign would be launched next month to raise awareness of the high standards being set.

"Serial offenders should face disciplinary action, and local managers should be vigilant in ensuring that hand hygiene rules are followed," he said.

Labour MSP Jackie Baillie said: "Whilst hand hygiene is an important part of dealing with hospital acquired infections, the health secretary is still complacent about the real challenges that our hospitals face.

"Her lack of willingness to order an immediate inquiry into why 18 people died of C.diff at the Vale of Leven hospital on her watch shows a minister who is putting politics ahead of the public interest."

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