The skills to tackle infection

You do not need the British Institute of Cleaning Science to tell you that high standards of cleaning are vital in the fight against infection, particularly within the healthcare environment.
But despite eminent awareness, we regularly see a multitude of negative news articles appearing in the media, scrutinising the NHS for its cleaning and hygiene standards. They tell stories of unfortunate individuals that have contracted deadly infections like MRSA, C.Diff and other related infections. These not only have had devastating effects on the individuals themselves but also on the families of those involved and the hospital in question. These stories have also led to heightened public concern of NHS standards and therefore an increased pressure on the NHS to focus on improvements.
Whilst these regrettable incidents are still occurring, we have to ask ourselves, is there more that can be done? With lack of NHS funding consistently proving to be a problem, it is important to recognise cost effective methods that are available. If successful procedures are identified and enforced across the NHS, this will in turn ensure that lives can be saved from these relentless, destructive and devastating infections.

It would however be extremely unfair not to mention that there has been a significant increase in recognising preventable illness and improving standards within the NHS in recent years. Particularly with the introduction of standardised procedures being put in place throughout UK hospitals. For example in 2007 a National Specification for Cleanliness in the NHS was developed. This introduced, not only a set of cleaning standards but also illustrated how to access performance against these standards.
Among the standards championed by this document was a national colour coding system that is now used across the NHS facility to help prevent cross infection and contamination with cleaning materials. Colour coding identifies to the cleaning operative the particular product (mop, bucket, cloth, etc.) that should be used in any given situation/area. This simple system is easily understood by staff and helps to prevent cross contamination from one cleaning area or surface to another. The designated colours are particularly useful when language or literacy barriers exist (which can often happen within a diverse workforce). As the institute for cleaning science BICSc, actively promote the importance of clear colour coding within educational materials and via its accredited training.
Other examples of improvements include campaigns promoting hand hygiene and enforcing stricter hand washing policies within hospitals. There are now signs across entrances, wards and other clinical areas to remind everyone (cleaning operatives, staff, visitors and patients) to clean their hands thoroughly and use alcohol gel solutions from the dispensers provided.

The British Institute of Cleaning Science actively campaigns for protecting and recognising the needs of the cleaning operative. If NHS cleaning operatives needs are understood, then improved working relationships and overall ‘bigger picture’ objectives are much easier to achieve.
Communication is key to any relationship. Bearing in mind that most cleaning operatives do not receive the usual communication channels that other staff receive (e.g. Internal email etc.), this can mean that they are not briefed on the overall objectives and activities of the hospital whilst the rest of the team are kept informed. Excluding operatives from this process can create barriers and leave the operative feeling that they are not seen as part of the overall team.
By spending time regularly bringing cleaning operatives into the bigger picture, this will ensure that they feel valued, respected, part of the team, more confident in their work and able to voice their concerns. If they do not feel part of the bigger picture, they will be unlikely to want to provide this information. Voicing concerns about things that make their job difficult, is vital in developing infection control techniques and addressing hygiene issues and barriers around the hospital. This process will also ensure that the operative feels more in control of their work and are able to do their job to the best of their ability.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) recently produced a report (November 2013) advising best practice for nursing and cleaning professionals to develop better working relationships within the NHS. The article recognises that cleaning and nursing staff are the two main groups of healthcare workers responsible for maintaining a safe and hygienic patient environment and provides recommendations for overcoming cultural and organisational barriers within these roles to improve patient experience. The article defining the relationship between cleaning and nursing staff is available to view on the RCN website.

Whilst putting standardised procedures in place, improved staff relationships are the first steps in improving standards, the next step is ensuring that hospital cleaning operatives are educated well enough to actually understand and practice these standards. It’s all well and good standardised procedures being created, but if they are not understood by the person using them, they become meaningless. Unfortunately, this is where things can go very wrong. Another clear solution to reducing this risk is Education and Accredited Training for Cleaning Operatives which ensures the safety of themselves; the safety of the hospital building; and the safety of the other staff, visitors and patients around them.

It is only through official (and trustworthy) accredited training providers and assessment criteria that the NHS can ensure that staff have not only undertaken training courses, but have thoroughly understood what they have learned and are competent in their abilities.

Overall, staff accreditation benefits everyone. The results have shown that accreditation of cleaning operatives reduces health risks within the hospital, improves staff productivity, creates a happier more valued work force, improves the hospitals reputation, and gives staff the tools to meet assessed audit requirements.

BICSc accredited operatives abilities can easily be identified by their ‘Licence to practice card’ and certificates proving their qualifications.

Whilst hiring an already accredited cleaning operative is ideal, an increasingly popular choice among hospitals (with a number of cleaning operatives on site) is to become a BICSc Accredited Training Organisation (ATO). NHS ATOs are hospitals that have members of their own staff on-site that have the ability to deliver BICSc training. After being trained by BICSc these individuals then become ‘licenced assessors’ with the ability to certificate other staff within the hospital. This means that staff from the hospital can receive official qualifications without having to attend external training courses each time a new member of staff arrives or they wish to develop their skills further. This ensures that all staff are trained to a high standard within the hospitals establishment.
Other benefits of becoming an ATO includes raising standards via education of staff, supporting succession planning; training can take place on locations suitable to business contracts / needs; it fulfils tender requirements for accredited training standards; and provides evidence that your establishment has cleaning operatives that are trained to an Accredited Industry standard throughout the hospital.

Launched in March 2011, the Cleaning Professionals Skills Suite (CPSS) is becoming the most widely used cleaning qualification in the UK and internationally and is a very popular choice for cleaning operatives working in hospital environments. Training can either be delivered at a BICSc Associate training site or delivered within ATOs by the hospitals own trained licenced assessors.  
The suite consists of three mandatory units, which cover chemical competence, equipment safe assembly and care and storage of equipment and materials. After successful completion of these three mandatory units, there are further 60+ skills modules that can be chosen depending on the requirements of the establishment.
For those with little time to gain certificated BICSc Cleaning Qualifications, the institute provides an online jointly badged certificated ‘Infection Control’ E-Learning course with the University of Northampton. If you would like to be sent an information pack please contact with the subject title INFECTION CONTROL INFO PACK.
In summary the Institute recommends the following overall formula for improvements to handling infection control in the NHS.

Education +Accredited Training + NHS Cleaning Operatives = Infection Prevention and Control.

Tel: 01604 678712

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