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NHS hand rub drank by patients

30th November 2007

Doctors have warned that hospitals may need to keep their hand rub locked away to stop patients drinking it for its alcoholic content.

Over the past 16 months, poison experts at London’s Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital received 19 reports of intentional ingestion.

In a report to the British Medical Journal, they said accidental ingestion by children and elderly and confused patients, was also a problem from hand rubs placed near bedsides to tackle hospital-acquired infections.

The toxicologists compared the number of inquiries to their poisons centre in London from other health professionals during a 16-month period before and after the widespread introduction of alcohol hand rubs in 2005.

This comparison revealed an increase in the total number (23 versus 50) of enquiries to the unit. There was also a marked increase (7 versus 29) in adult ingestion numbers, 19 of which were thought to be due to intentional ingestion.

The researchers said: “In our experience, the more serious effects are seen in those who ingest more than 500ml of hand rub, and this is most likely to occur in confused patients (such as, they may mistake it for water) and those with alcohol dependency seeking the desired effect.?

Alcohol Concern warned that alcohol dependency can sometimes manifest itself in extreme and desperate measures on the part of the patient.

A spokesperson said: “In addition to managing risk in the short term, it’s vital that hospitals have in place clear referral systems so that hospitalised patients can begin to address the root causes of this type of behaviour.?

 

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