Now wash your hands for a cleaner company image

The reputational damage to the Royal Cornwall Hospital NHS Trust over its dermatitis debacle is good news for Cinderella, if not the hospital and the tax-payer.

The trust has paid £20,000 in fines and court costs after failing to take measures to prevent 23 staff cases of dermatitis, and who knows what management time costs were wasted.

It took an inspection by the HSE to tell the Trust its workers were suffering from this debilitating skin condition.

How can a hospital trust fail to get a grip on something as fundamental as skincare?  Hospitals know that repeated hand-washing and glove wearing by staff is tough on skin, and that the medic with damaged hands may skip the hand-washing or alcohol gel on the very day a superbug is waiting for its free lift.

After years of award-winning skincare PR campaigns for this issue, it gets under my skin.  Yet, there is hope for Cinderella, because it takes a high-profile court-case like this to force the issue of skincare and hygiene regimes to the surface.

Skincare is still the most neglected of Cinderella topics in UK public health and in workplace health.

There are 84,000 Brits with dermatitis caused or aggravated by their work, say the HSE.  We are one of the worst nations for this problem, and there is another reason why.

That reason is the British public who does not take hand-health all that seriously, nor hand hygiene.  That should alarm any firm where food contamination from dirty hands could shut it down, like food factories or grocers, and give them a permanently grubby image.

This explains the plethora of signs begging us to wash and dry our hands.  It would help if all employers introduced appealing, simple skin regimes in the workplace – a pleasing, gentle liquid soap, a skin conditioner that macho men would use, well-placed alcohol gel stations and even surveillance until good habits are hard-wired into our brains.

The Americans are delightfully evangelical about hand hygiene and skincare.  Only Obama could make fist-bumping a trend, and sensibly so, during the Ebola scare.

If Cinderella is to stop being the poor relation, she clearly needs to look over the pond for her role-models. Meanwhile, maybe this image shattering news in Cornwall will remind employers to do their part.


Kay Williamson