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Summary

Background

Reducing healthcare-associated infections (HCAI) has been a priority in the U.K. over recent decades and this has been reflected in interventions focusing on improving hygiene procedures.

Objectives

To evaluate whether these interventions coincided with an increased incidence of work-related irritant contact dermatitis (ICD) attributed to hand hygiene or/and other hygiene measures in healthcare workers (HCWs).

Methods

A quasi-experimental (interrupted time series) design was used to compare trends in incidence of ICD in HCWs attributed to hygiene before and after interventions to reduce HCAI with trends in the same periods in control groups (ICD in other workers). Cases of ICD reported to a U.K. surveillance scheme from 1996 to 2012 were analysed. The time periods compared were defined objectively based on the dates of the publication of national evidence-based guidelines, the U.K. Health Act 2006 and the Cleanyourhands campaign.

Results

The reported incidence of ICD in HCWs attributed to hygiene has increased steadily from 1996 to 2012 [annual incidence rate ratio (95% confidence interval): hand hygiene only 1·10 (1·07–1·12); all hygiene 1·05 (1·03–1·07)], whereas the incidence in other workers is declining. An increase in incidence of ICD in HCWs attributed to hand hygiene was observed at the beginning of the Cleanyourhands campaign.

Conclusions

The increasing incidence of ICD in HCWs combined with the popularity of interventions to reduce HCAI warrants increased efforts towards identifying products and implementing practices posing the least risk of ICD.