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Tips to reduce glove use after 12.7 billion used during pandemic

During this year’s Glove Awareness Week, nurses are being asked to think about whether using gloves is necessary before every procedure

During this year’s Glove Awareness Week, nurses are being asked to think about whether the use of gloves is necessary before every procedure

Nurses are being urged to cut down on glove use, as the use of plastic personal protective equipment ballooned over the past two years from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The RCN are calling on members to consider whether using gloves is necessary for every task in a bid to cut down on plastic waste and unnecessary damage to skin on the hands.

Overuse of gloves can lead to long-term damage to hands, says RCN

A staggering 12.7 billon gloves were sent for use in the NHS and social care in England alone

During this year’s Glove Awareness Week, nurses are being asked to think about whether the use of gloves is necessary before every procedure

Tips to reduce glove use during Glove Awareness Week after 12.7 billion used during pandemic
Picture: iStock

Nurses are being urged to cut down on glove use, as the use of plastic personal protective equipment ballooned over the past two years from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The RCN are calling on members to consider whether using gloves is necessary for every task in a bid to cut down on plastic waste and unnecessary damage to skin on the hands.

Overuse of gloves can lead to long-term damage to hands, says RCN

A staggering 12.7 billon gloves were sent for use in the NHS and social care in England alone between 25 Feb 2020 to 31 March 2022. This compares to 1.7 billion in 2019.

Not only that, but repeated glove use can also cause painful cracks and sores on hands that can make it difficult for nurses to carry out their daily duties.

‘Nursing staff have always instinctively turned to examination gloves as a first line of protection and the pandemic saw a massive increase in their use,’ said RCN professional lead for infection prevention and control Rose Gallagher.

‘They are, however, not always necessary and their overuse can lead to long-term and sometimes permanent damage to the hands.’

Are gloves necessary before every procedure?

During this year’s Glove Awareness week, which runs until 6 May, nurses are being asked to think about whether using gloves is necessary before every procedure.

While gloves are required when in contact with blood or body fluids, broken skin and harmful drugs or chemicals, they are not needed for every procedure.

This includes:

  • Giving vaccinations.
  • Taking blood pressure.
  • Helping patients to stand, eat or drink.

Additionally, gloves are often flown thousands of miles from across the world to reach hospitals and community settings in the UK, contributing to climate change and to the NHS’s carbon footprint.

Ms Gallagher added: ‘Nursing staff can be reassured that hand hygiene is a highly effective way of protecting themselves from viruses, such as COVID-19, which means we can reduce glove use safely when they are not required.

‘By taking steps to make one change and reducing the use of gloves can also play a huge part in reducing waste and increasing sustainability in health and care services.’


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