Patient hand hygiene during key moments matters


4th October 2023


While emphasis on effective hand hygiene by healthcare workers to prevent healthcare associated infections is still paramount, it is also vital for patients to have good hand hygiene practices to protect themselves from infection.

Healthcare facilities are responsible for ensuring that patients, residents and visitors have access and the opportunity to clean their hands when appropriate.

Evidence shows that patient’s hands can quickly become contaminated after admission to a healthcare facility, with one study highlighting that within just 48 hours, 39% of patients’ hands sampled were contaminated with at least one potentially harmful pathogen including MRSA, Clostridioides difficile, VRE and Gram-negative bacteria.

The National Safety & Quality Health Service standards (Standard 3), highlight the importance of patients being provided with the option of alcohol-based hand rubs, hand wipes or access to hand wash basins based on specific needs.

Like the “5 moments of hand hygiene” initiative for clinicians, encouraging patients to wash their hands before and after key moments may help reduce the transmission of pathogens and reduce the risk of HAIs:

The moments that matter for when patients should engage in hand hygiene include:

  • Before and after eating or drinking
  • After using a toilet or commode
  • After coughing, sneezing, or touching the face
  • Before and after touching invasive devices
  • When hands are visibly dirty or before and after entering a room/ward

For further information, we invite you to explore our campaign, IPC ‘Moments that Matter’, where you can find valuable resources. Find out more here >


Istenes, N., Bingham, J., Hazelett, S., Fleming, E., & Kirk, J. (2013). Patients’ potential role in the transmission of healthcare-associated infections: Prevalence of contamination with bacterial pathogens and patient attitudes toward hand hygiene. American Journal of Infection Control, 41(9), 793–798.



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