Surfaceskins: getting under the surface of hand hygiene issues in schools

A selection of schools in the North West are testing out Surfaceskins: a revolutionary new technology that fights cross-contamination and aims to improve hand hygiene among pupils.

With studies showing 80% of infections are transmitted by hands, the special needs school, high school and two primary schools in Wigan have implemented Surfaceskins on a trial basis to see if it boosts hand hygiene and reduces absenteeism.

The specially-engineered textile used in Surfaceskins acts as an antibacterial and is integrated into door push pads, which kill deposited germs in seconds. The pads also contain reminder messages for the children to wash their hands. 

Dawn Hurst, headteacher at Leigh Central Primary School in Wigan said: “Many children have had time off school this winter due to colds and flu. Whilst the children do their best in terms of hand washing, I feel these Surfaceskins pads could make a real difference in terms of raising awareness about hand hygiene. They could even help us reduce absenteeism in the future.”

The Journal of Hospital Infection published a scientific paper on the effectiveness of Surfaceskins last year, which showed that the product reduced bacteria levels by more than 90% even after six days’ use. Surfaceskins CEO Brian Waligora

A University of Leeds spin-off, the technical textile specialists at the Nonwovens Innovation and Research Institute (NIRI) spent seven years developing the technology used in Surfaceskins. Professor Mark Wilcox, head of research and development microbiology at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust co-authored the study. He commented: “The flu vaccine is currently given to NHS staff and to vulnerable groups, yet the number of people contracting the virus hasn’t reduced this year – it has grown.

"Surfaceskins could be a key weapon in the battle against the spread of flu and has the potential to help prevent doors being a key source of contamination in high risk areas such as schools. It should be considered for long-term implementation in high footfall areas to prevent the flu pathogen from spreading so aggressively next winter.”

Brian Waligora, Surfaceskins CEO, commented: “If you touch a surface contaminated with the flu pathogen then your nose or mouth without washing your hands in between, you risk becoming infected – so, breaking this cycle is pivotal in terms of boosting infection control.

"Washing your hands only provides you with a certain amount of protection if you then touch a contaminated door. Surfaceskins provides an extra line of defence against flu and other viruses by helping hands remain clean after being washed thoroughly with soap, or using hand gel. 

“The main aim of the Wigan schools trial is to gauge the impact of Surfaceskins on hand hygiene awareness among children. If Surfaceskins proves to have a positive impact on hand hygiene awareness and hand cleaning, this will reduce infection rates and eliminate doors as an area of contamination in these schools. As a result, sickness-related absences will naturally fall at these schools.”

Wigan's Hope School, St Mary’s High and Leigh St. Peter’s CE are also trialling Surfaceskins.

For more information, see the Surfaceskins website

Caption: Surfaceskins CEO Brian Waligora demonstrating the push pads to Leigh Central Primary headteacher Dawn Hurst and pupils Abigail Keegan and Callum Willis-Madden