Handwashing row threatens running of outdoor nursery

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Scotland's first outdoor nursery has come under fire after Care Commission inspectors deemed its handwashing practices to be against health and safety recommendations.

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The Secret Garden nursery in Letham, Fife, has been told that to meet hand hygiene polices they must provide water and soap for children to wash their hands.

Currently the nursery use anti-bacterial wipes and hand sanitiser to clean children's hands after going to the toilet and before eating, as they have no access to running water.

Originally the nursery staff carried water with them, one litre per child, but it was impractical as unlike other outdoor settings Secret Garden does not have a base camp.

The nursery consulted hygiene specialist Toyguard. Director Iain Stewart said, 'The Secret Garden Nursery has taken appropriate steps to minimise risk and staff understand what to do. Their use of wipes and sanitiser is acceptable practice and works to prevent the spread of infections.'

The issue has been ongoing since last year when the Care Commission first inspected the nursery. However, its recommendations were based on Health Protection Scotland's (HPS) best practice guide for hygiene, which focuses on indoor nurseries.

Following this, the Care Commission asked HPS to produce a report based on the practice of the outdoor nursery. It recommended that, 'Hand washing with soap and running water should be performed after using the toilet/changing nappy, before and after eating, after sneezing or coughing, if hands are dirty, and before going home.'

The Secret Garden's management team met with the Care Commission last week.

A spokesperson for the Care Commission said, 'We are committed to working together with all parties to find an acceptable solution that promotes the best hand hygiene practice and protects the health and wellbeing of young children so that they continue to enjoy the unique and innovative service that The Secret Garden offers.'

Another meeting has been scheduled for next month when a final decision is likely.

The ruling is expected to be used to create a national standard of hand hygiene for all outdoor nurseries in Scotland, and to shape hand hygiene policy in England and Wales.

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