Infection, prevention, control: why is ‘bare below the elbows’ important?

Hand washing

This week we continue looking at the basics of inspection, prevention, control (IPC).

The best infection prevention and control (IPC) practice is for all clinicians to be ‘bare below the elbows’ during patient care and is the standard set by the Department of Health. It is widely acknowledged that being bare below the elbows reduces the risk of transmitting infection. If you are not bare below the elbows, effective hand hygiene is limited.

Being ‘bare below’ means that whilst in uniform or treating a patient all staff must:

  • not wear wrist jewellery, friendship / charity bands, fitness monitors etc.*
  • not wear long sleeves, unless sleeve protectors are worn during patient care
  • not wear excessive jewellery; a single plain band ring is acceptable but no stoned rings are to be worn whilst in uniform
  • keep nails short and false nails and extensions are not permitted whilst in uniform.

*There is an understanding that ambulance clinicians will wear a wrist watch on occasion, so staff are permitted to wear a wrist watch. However if you choose to wear a wrist watch, please ensure:

  • it is made of a non-porous material and easily cleanable e.g. plastic, not of the bracelet link style
  • it is removed for hand hygiene
  • it is decontaminated after each patient care episode.

Below are some examples of acceptable wrist watches:

The selection of watches below are not acceptable:

For more information, check out the IPC pages on East24.

Published 4th September, 2016

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