Be glove aware to protect our people and our planet

Disposable non-sterile gloves play a vital role in healthcare – when used correctly they protect patients and staff from potential infection.

But when gloves aren’t needed, good hand hygiene is the best way to protect you and your patients.

To coincide with World Hand Hygiene Day on 5 May, we’re asking everyone to play their part in protecting our planet as well as our people by only using gloves when they’re needed.

By reducing unnecessary use of gloves, we can:

  • reduce risk to patients and staff (by reducing cross-infection, including infections which are resistant to antibiotics and poor hand hygiene)
  • reduce skin irritation / contact dermatitis
  • reduce waste

When are disposable non-sterile gloves needed – and when are they not needed?

Gloves are needed in some circumstances – they protect you from potential infection where there’s a risk of exposure to blood, body fluids, broken skin and hazardous drugs and chemicals.

They’re not needed when touching a patient if there’s no risk of contact with body fluids – for example, when:

  • giving vaccinations
  • doing clinical observations like blood pressure
  • comforting patients
  • helping patients eat or drink
  • pushing a chair or trolley, or helping patients to mobilise
  • doing administrative tasks like using a computer or phone

How can reducing unnecessary use of gloves help NHSScotland become more sustainable?

Gloves have been the most procured item since the start of the pandemic, with over 1.2 billion gloves issued to health and social care settings since 1 March 2020. And they have a significant carbon footprint, travelling thousands of miles to get here.

This is where we come in, as Professor Sir Gregor Smith, Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, explains:

“We can all help to reduce our carbon footprint by only using disposable gloves when needed. And it doesn’t stop there.

“Gloves are single use items that can’t be recycled – so by minimising unnecessary glove use, we can reduce waste too, cut our impact on the planet and save money that can be re-invested back into patient care.

“Small changes made by many people, many times over, soon mount up. Together we can make a big difference and help NHSScotland towards a climate resilient, low carbon sustainable future.”

Sharing knowledge

The theme of this year’s World Hand Hygiene Day is promoting knowledge through training and education.

We spoke to Lesley Shepherd, Head of Programme, Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professionals in NHS Education for Scotland (NES) to find out more:

“Building and sharing knowledge about hand hygiene is important because hand hygiene is the most effective way to keep people safe from infection.

“NES hosts a wide range of resources to support infection prevention and control (IPC) education and training, including the Scottish IPC Education Pathway (SIPCEP) which is based on the National Infection Prevention and Control Manual. I’d encourage everyone to visit the IPC Zone to build or refresh their knowledge and share it with others.”

Visit the IPC Zone within TURAS Learn to learn more about hand hygiene.