Gloves are costly, ‘often unnecessary’ and could ‘increase the risk of infection’

The Royal College of Nursing is asking healthcare staff to “think twice” before using gloves.

Matt Bodell
25 April 2019
Nurse wearing gloves

Healthcare staff are being asked to “think twice” before using gloves.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is asking all those involved in nursing and healthcare to think twice before using examination gloves when carrying out tasks.


The union states that, despite the NHS spending over £35 million a year on more than 1.5 billion boxes of examination gloves, their use is ‘often unnecessary’ and could instead lead to poor hand hygiene – increasing the risk of infection.

Additionally, every year around 1,000 health care workers develop work-related contact dermatitis of the hands – a painful, debilitating condition which may require nursing staff to be moved out of clinical areas due to the risk of infection.

‘Gloves on?’

‘Glove Awareness Week’ (29 April – 3 May) will give nurses and healthcare workers the opportunity to think about when the gloves should be on or the gloves should be off and what they can do to reduce the risk of damage to their hands.

According to the campaign, gloves should be worn if there is a ‘high-risk’ of coming into contact with blood/body fluid, non-intact skin, or mucous membranes and when using certain chemicals such as disinfectants, preserving agents or cytotoxic drugs.


Staff should be aware of and ensure they abide by their organisations’ infection prevention and control policy.

To support nurses in becoming more glove aware the RCN has produced a series of resources including posters, leaflets and a selfie-board.

‘Being glove aware’

Rose Gallagher, RCN Professional Lead for Infection Prevention and Control said: “All those who work in healthcare have a responsibility for caring for our patients but we also have a responsibility for looking after ourselves and that can start with being glove aware.

“Ensuring gloves are worn in appropriate circumstances is equally as important as considering when not to wear them.


“Using gloves should not be seen as a replacement for good hand hygiene. With proper washing and moisturising of hands along with appropriate use of gloves we can look after our hands as well as preventing the spread of infections.

“If we don’t’ look after our hands we may not be able to look after our patients and ultimately risk long-term damage to our hands which in some cases can be life-long damage.”

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