'Too posh to wash' doctors disciplined

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Doctors working for an NHS trust which was condemned 18 months ago for its poor infection control are still "too posh to wash", a report revealed yesterday.

Wycombe Hospital in Buckinghamshire has become the first in Britain to discipline medical staff for failing to clean their hands. Managers issued verbal warnings to two doctors and a written warning to a third after they were seen failing to wash between seeing one patient and the next.

Inspectors who monitored hand-washing earlier this year found compliance among nurses was 90 per cent, compared with 60 per cent among doctors, giving rise to the "too posh" jibe. Compliance among doctors has risen to 80 per cent since the warnings but still lags behind nurses. "There is no excuse for it," said Anne Eden, the chief executive of Buckinghamshire Hospitals NHS Trust.

The trust also runs Stoke Mandeville Hospital – the scene of two recent superbug outbreaks in which 33 people died. It emerged yesterday that no criminal charges are to be brought over the infection of 335 Stoke Mandeville patients with the Clostridium difficile bacterium between October 2003 and June 2005.

All staff working for the trust have been told they could be sacked if they do not consistently clean their hands to prevent the spread of potentially fatal hospital infections such as MRSA and C. difficile.

While some staff at Wycombe are still failing to scrub up properly, doctors and nurses at Stoke Mandeville are all apparently following good practice, said yesterday's report by the Healthcare Commission.

Inspectors said the trust met all 11 requirements of the commission's hygiene code but added: "The exception to this was some doctors, who showed a lack of awareness of infection control issues. On a number of occasions, inspectors noticed medical staff moving between patients and between wards without washing their hands."