According to the Department of Health, many care workers do not always decontaminate their hands when required or do not always use the correct techniques. As a result, care home residents, who are likely to be the elderly or have low immune systems, are more susceptible to contracting a healthcare-associated infection (HCAI).
Bulk fill dispensers are still commonly used throughout care homes in the UK and North America but in reality, they are not regularly emptied and cleaned thoroughly, therefore jeopardising the standards of hand hygiene within care homes and putting residents’ lives at further risk.
The widely applied practice of “topping up” dispensers – refilling them before they have been emptied out completely and cleaned properly – means that the old soap in the reservoir, which may have been contaminated by germs, can cause the new soap to be contaminated.
According to a study report published by Biofouling in 2012, once a dispenser becomes contaminated, it is impossible to eradicate the bacteria, even with extreme cleaning solutions.
In order to prevent HCAIs and safeguard residents, care homes must implement a systemised approach to hand hygiene.
Shifting to a systemised approach
Employers have a responsibility to provide adequate facilities for workers and accessible hand hygiene facilities are the crucial first step in any effort to increase hand hygiene compliance.
Wall-mounted dispensing systems that are colour-coded for ease of identification have long been recognised as the overall 'best practice' solution for delivering general skin care products.
They allow for much more flexibility when it comes to the location of hand hygiene opportunities. Rather than one centrally located facility, which might require staff to walk through the building to have access, dispensers can be strategically placed throughout a care home, for instance at the exit or entry point to a resident’s room.
This makes it much more likely for staff to use them regularly, thus resulting in increased hand hygiene compliance.
In contrast to the re-filling procedure of bulk dispensers, sealed cartridges are quick and easy to change. Spills are no longer an issue, and sealed cartridge dispensers require minimal cleaning, thus saving companies time and money. The risk of contamination is also reduced to a minimum as there is no contact between the product and the environment before the product is being used to wash hands.
By having a systemised approach to hand hygiene, employers can provide a simple yet cost-effective solution to help all employees adopt good hand hygiene practices and ensure a safer environment for residents – it’s time to bin bulk fill dispensers once and for all.
 Journal of Environmental Health 2011
 Bacteria Hand Contamination and Transfer after Use of Contaminated Bulk-Soap Refillable
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