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A partnership approach to cleaning can help combat cross-contamination

14 April 2015

Maintaining consistent standards of cleanliness and hygiene across healthcare facilities can be a challenging task. This is even more so for organisations such as the NHS, where individual Trusts are made up of multiple sites, often serviced by the same cleaning provider, Office Depot explains

Ensuring a suitable level of hygiene is imperative for healthcare providers, not only because of the need to implement an efficient process throughout all sites, but also due to the specific cleaning requirements and dynamics that each clinical or patient area embodies. 

It might be assumed that the procurement of products and services is clear-cut when dealing with multiple sites, with products being centrally sourced and delivered as part of a unified approach. However, the process can be more complex than this as the individual requirements of each site means they run almost as their own entity, taking into consideration the various opinions and feedback from staff working at ward level and on the ground. Here there is a risk that single sites deal directly with local suppliers on a one-to-one basis. However, for larger consolidated suppliers, there is still an opportunity to service multiple sites as part of one contract and also sufficiently meet the needs of separate departments and facilities. Nevertheless, achieving this requires suppliers to pro-actively make efforts to forge direct relationships with decision makers at each site (as well as the wider procurement team) to ensure their needs can be anticipated with timely suggested solutions and recommendations. 


Achieving this also requires an in-depth understanding of how the overall healthcare sector works and the issues it faces with regards to maintaining hygiene. Just one example of this can be found in a recent study that showed 49 per cent of hospital professionals did not wash their uniforms at the recommended temperature of 60 °C. This has been found to significantly increase the risk of cross-contamination where bacteria are carried in workwear textiles from one area to another, which can cause the spread of infections. Washing at the temperature required to eliminate this bacteria is therefore vital. 

Of course, the issue of cross-contamination applies to far more than just workwear, with regular and thorough hand washing being crucial to prevention. The transfer of harmful bacteria from the kitchen to ward areas and vice versa, as well as through the re-use of medical instruments that have not been sufficiently cleaned ,are just two of the numerous ways in which cross-contamination can take place. 


The role of training

Suppliers with contracts covering multiple healthcare sites must therefore recognise the key role they can play in ensuring that cross-contamination doesn’t occur as a result of the way in which their cleaning operatives work, or indeed anyone within a healthcare facility using their products. Primarily, it is vital that regular training on the correct way to use products is implemented by the supplier. The survey above suggests that for those that did not wash their workwear at the right temperature, the correct guidance had been issued but clearly not followed through.    

As well as bacterial spread, cleaning operatives should also be well aware of spread of disease and appreciate the importance of using recommended disinfectants. Simple processes such as changing gloves or washing hands thoroughly with anti-bacterial soap before moving onto clean anywhere or anything else must also be followed.   

However, as part of a system of open communication between the customer and supplier, healthcare providers must play their part by relaying ‘insider’ advice to their cleaning suppliers on how to use specific products in the best way possible. For suppliers, instigating this level of dialogue allows them go beyond simply supplying products or a service as part of their offering, and in turn become known as a company that can assist their customers in meeting key objectives.