Hand hygiene

Hand hygiene is one of the most important ways to stop infection spreading and means cleaning your hands using either soap and water or alcohol based hand rub.

If your hands are visibly dirty or you or someone you are caring for have sickness and diarrhoea or other gastro-intestinal infection, for example norovirus, then use soap and water.

At all other times use alcohol-based hand rub. 


Hand hygiene technique

Use the hand hygiene technique shown in the National Infection Prevention and Control Manual (NIPCM):

Further information on hand hygiene can be found in the NIPCM.

Global hand hygiene day 2020: ‘Nurses and midwifes: clean care is in your hands’

On 5 May each year, the World Health Organization (WHO) SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands campaign aims to progress the goal of maintaining a global profile on the importance of hand hygiene in healthcare. It also aims to bring people together in support of hand hygiene improvement globally.

As 2020 is 'Year of the Nurse and the Midwife', the 2020 campaign focuses on recognising the central role played by nurses and midwives in infection prevention and control and hand hygiene best practices.

The themes for 2020 are:

  • Nurses – "Clean and safe care starts with you."
  • Midwives – "Your hands make all the difference for mothers and babies."
  • Patients and Families – "Safer care for you, with you."

Hand hygiene in the context of COVID-19

Nurses, midwives and other healthcare workers are the frontline heroes saving lives from COVID-19 but we also need the public to help fight COVID-19 by adopting frequent hand hygiene as part of their day-to-day practices.

Hand Hygiene is one of the most effective actions to reduce the spread of pathogens and prevent infections, including the COVID-19 virus. Conducting hand hygiene at the right time, using the right technique, with either Alcohol-Based Hand Rub (ABHR) or soap, water and disposable or clean towels is critical.

Nurses and other healthcare staff should follow the National Infection Prevention and Control Manual to prevent spreading infection to those in the healthcare setting.

Members of the public can help prevent infections when visiting healthcare settings by following the advice in our Healthcare Associated Infection: Information for the public leaflet.

Further information about the campaign can be found on the WHO website.