Let's respect cleaning operatives

14 February 2018

Most people would agree that a clean environment is essential to the safety, recovery and wellbeing of patients. Many would also concur that effective cleaning can prolong the life of our environments and impact on organisational reputation. Universally we respect the importance of cleaning. But Lee Peddle, national chair of the Association of Healthcare Cleaning Professionals (ahcp), asks, do we universally respect the work of cleaning operatives?

The following comment was provided by my colleague Judith Greening, an infection prevention & control (IPC) lead nurse:

“As we know HCAI can happen to anyone and outbreaks are disruptive to services, costly to patients, organisations and can be fatal. As environmental cleaning has been proven to reduce the spread of infection all staff need to understand and discharge their role and responsibility in prevention. A clean environment is also often seen as a measure of the quality of the clinical care provided and a number of studies suggest that having a clean and uncluttered environment is beneficial for one’s mental health, so promoting cleaning will contribute to the therapeutic environment that units promote.” 

Well said Judith. It shows that IPC understand and respect what cleaning professionals do. But does everybody? I mean cleaning is easy right? Everyone does it at home, surely it’s just the same thing on a bigger scale? Unfortunately all too often we come across this dangerous assumption. We need to educate against this attitude by demonstrating and articulating how complex and technical it can be. By doing this we will help others to understand why our story matters. 


Those of us within the industry have a responsibility to ensure that cleaning stays high on the agenda. To ensure that we celebrate the good as much as we criticise the bad. To make sure that cleaning is not forgotten and seen as an invisible or background service. In my old team we had an unofficial slogan which we reeled off to each other whenever we felt taken for granted: “Nobody notices what we do...until we don’t do it". This phrase can be true of all FM services, and the wider support services. But what I have come to believe is that it is only true if we accept and allow it to be.

One of the most essential lessons I learnt when I was trying to evolve my domestic services team was the importance of letting people know what we have achieved. I was clear that I wanted to ensure my team got the recognition it deserved, working hard to ensure the organisation knew not just the importance, but the complexity and technical skill involved in maintaining standards of cleanliness. Cleaning needs to be embedded in an organisation’s reporting structure in order for it to succeed, but this should not just be about submitting data. 

Training & development

Being the national chair of the Association of Healthcare Cleaning Professionals (AHCP) I feel a great deal of responsibility to ensure that we are continually striving to promote and support the importance of healthcare cleaning. A key part of this has, and continues to be, our work on accredited and industry recognised training and development opportunities. Providing CPD to our members and the operatives working for them not only enhances their skillset, but we believe it also helps them to see the importance of what they do and will provide them with recognition within their respective organisations.

The Association also recognises the importance of working with others. We have developed partnership working agreements with the Hospital Caterers Association (HCA) and the Health Estates and Facilities Management Association (HEFMA). Additionally we are working closely with, and have shared events with, the Infection Prevention Society (IPS). These partnerships are crucial for joint working, sharing resource and providing a common message, but they will also allow our members to develop connections at a more local level.