HOSPITAL staff have begun wearing a new fashion accessory as part of the fight to beat hospital superbugs.

Everyone from the most senior consultant to the most junior doctor is being asked by York Health Services NHS Trust to wear bottles of alcohol-based hand gel on their belts.

Medics will be expected to squirt their hands with the powerful gel after coming into contact with patients.

To ensure they have easy access to the gel, doctors are being encouraged to attach the small bottles to their belts.

The gel is already widely available in the hospital but the smaller, portable bottles for doctors were introduced this week.

It is believed that only one other hospital in the country - the Radcliffe Infirmary, in Oxford - has introduced this measure.

The unusual move follows research by scientists in Switzerland, who found that infection rates were reduced in hospitals where workers had easy access to the gel.

More than 3,500 people were struck down by the potentially fatal MRSA (Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureas) superbug in England in the first half of last year. They included 209 in the North-East and 338 in Yorkshire and Humberside.

York infection control nurse specialist Vicki Parkin said: "We have bought 300 bottles of the gel, which will be attached to the waistbands of consultants and doctors. We hope to notice a real improvement and will be monitoring infection rates."

Ms Parkin said it was hoped that York might be chosen as one of the pilot sites for a programme being developed by the National Patient Safety Agency.