Clean Care is Safer Care

First Global Patient Safety Challenge technical meeting

24-25 August 2009
Geneva, Switzerland

Introduction and meeting aim

This meeting was organized by the WHO Patient Safety First Challenge team to bring together countries with existing hand hygiene programmes or those intending to set these up. The meeting was originally planned for 5 May 2009, however, the onset of the global influenza A (H1N1) pandemic meant the meeting was deferred until August. The aim of the meeting was to bring together representatives from the different countries leading these activities to facilitate sharing and learning from each other's experiences.

The expert lead for the Challenge, Professor Didier Pittet, who is also head of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Patient Safety and Infection Control based at University Hospitals of Geneva, chaired the meeting and gave the keynote address. He outlined the critical importance of hand hygiene as a major weapon in reducing health care-associated infection and its global burden of disease. The success of the Challenge in raising awareness and providing the means to introduce improved hand hygiene practice is demonstrated in a number of countries who have now their pledged support.

Outline of the meeting

The meeting was structured into sessions that covered several topic areas. The real and painful consequences of health care-associated infections (HCAI) on patients and families was outlined in 'patient voices' which was followed by a presentation on the results of a global survey to identify the current status of the national and sub-national activities in different countries. Several participants gave oral and poster presentations which were very instructive, prompting lively discussion and interaction. They showed the different approaches countries have adopted for introducing hand hygiene and addressed their experiences with developing tools, initiating activities and overcoming complex barriers. Several presenters stressed the need for a multidisciplinary approach to the introduction and sustainability of hand hygiene.

The new initiative African Partnerships for Patient Safety with its first focus on hand hygiene highlighted the work that WHO Patient Safety is beginning in Africa in liaison with hospitals in England and, initially, in Switzerland.

Technical work was the main emphasis, with a report on the testing of the hand hygiene multimodal strategy at various global pilot sites. The sites differ in capacity, resources and culture which gives greater profile to how hand hygiene practice can be adapted and modified to suit environments. All sites demonstrated compliance improvement and are in various stages of scaling up.

Plenary session topics included:

  • Human factors: how they influence hand hygiene promotion and campaigning
  • Campaign spread and sustainability
  • Impact of HCAI
  • Overcoming barriers to implementation

Sustainability and moving forward

Embedding hand hygiene promotional activities as an essential component of actions to prevent and control HCAI and promote patient safety was proposed as an important consideration for sustainability. Working together to achieve the vision of making hand hygiene an essential and solid basis of HCAI prevention at the point of care everywhere formed the meeting's call to action.

Participants agreed in principle that a network of countries where hand hygiene campaigns or programmes are in place should form part of the long term strategy to ensure sustainability.