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Tackling the rise of E. coli with effective hand hygiene

Posted by Paul Jakeway on May 14, 2019 9:00:00 AM


Within healthcare settings, E. coli infections have increased by one fifth in the last five years, costing the NHS £2.3 billion in 2018.[1]

E. coli bacteria normally live in the intestines of people and animals. While most E. coli are harmless and are actually an important part of a healthy human intestinal tract, some E. coli are pathogenic, meaning they can cause illness outside of the intestinal tract.[2]

Currently representing 65% of infections[3], E. coli is just one of a number of diseases now resistant to antibiotics. However, we can reduce the spread of infections such as E. coli by encouraging staff and patients to regularly clean their hands.



Performing hand hygiene is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of infections.

Hospitals have a duty to educate staff on the importance of effective hand washing and ensure the right products are located in the right places.

It is imperative to motivate staff to practice good hand hygiene by regularly cleaning their hands, using the principles set out in the WHO multimodal hand hygiene strategy, implemented according to the WHO 5-Moments of Hand Hygiene.

The 5 key moments for hand hygiene, which recommends when a staff member should wash their hands includes:

  1. Before touching a patient,
  2. Before clean/aseptic procedures,
  3. After body fluid exposure/risk,
  4. After touching a patient, and
  5. After touching patient surroundings.

To remind staff to perform hand hygiene and create a safe culture, it’s important to ensure leaflets, posters and information boards are placed around the site – in doing so, we can encourage patients and visitors to follow suit. 

By placing regular reminders throughout on how to perform hand hygiene and creating a simple model for patients and visitors to follow, we can ensure hand hygiene remains a priority. 

Patients and visitors should be encouraged to clean their hands during these key moments:

  • On entering wards / visiting the toilet
  • Prior to eating, drinking or taking medication / helping patients do so
  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Before and after helping relatives with personal care
  • On returning to patient’s bed / leaving the ward
  • When hands are visibly dirty

Hand hygiene is a responsibility we all share, and it is critical to good health. By working together as one community, we can reduce the rate of infections, and the rise of E. coli.


 More Information



[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/reducing-infections-in-the-nhs

[2] https://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/general/index.html

[3] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/reducing-infections-in-the-nhs



Topics: infection control, hand hygiene compliance, healthcare transformation, hand washing, Antibiotic resistance, Superbugs, tips for improving hand hygiene, Actionable Patient Safety Solutions, Patient Safety Movement, E. Coli

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The DebMed blog is the go-to source for hand hygiene and infection prevention related discussions occurring in the healthcare industry. Join the conversation! All readers are invited to comment, share stories and information, and post articles of interest.

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