Whanganui Hospital is encouraging staff, patients and visitors to wash their hands.

"Good hand hygiene helps stop the spread of bugs and antibiotic-resistant infections," clinical nurse specialist Jacqueline Pennefather said.

"It's heart-warming seeing so many visitors coming in and out of Whanganui Hospital stopping and taking the time to use the hand gel we provide at entry points around the hospital.

"But what we want to impress on patients, is that they can speak up and ask our staff if they have washed their hands appropriately before touching them. We know this is not easy for people to do, but patients have the right to speak up and we encourage them to exercise that right."

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Pennefather said good hand hygiene in the home was equally important for preventing the spread of infection within families and whānau – and that reducing infections lessens the need for antibiotics and reduces the opportunity for micro-organisms to develop resistance and share resistance genes.

The message comes ahead of Patient Safety Week starting next week.