Nigel Crunden, a business specialist at Office Depot, discusses the implications of new regulations on cleanliness in healthcare facilities
Nigel Crunden from Office Depot looks at the importance of cleanliness in healthcare facilities
The cleanliness of any healthcare facility is paramount.
A change in official regulations last year provided a vital source of verification for facilities managers (FMs) as well as an ideal opportunity to make sure a facility is meeting the new guidelines.
Evaluating current cleaning processes should already be part and parcel of a mindset that seeks to consistently meet high standards. However, the fact that the new standard has been place for just a year provides even more of a trigger to ensure these checks are in place.
The rationale behind any cleaning regime within healthcare must acknowledge the desired outcomes of a clean and hygienic facility. Of course, the risk of contracting an infection and damage to a patient are principal concerns. However, the general level of confidence patients, visitors and even staff have in a facility can also be adversely affected by its cleanliness. Acknowledging this adds further motivation for the continuous positive improvement of cleaning best practice.
Clearly defining and communicating outcomes with staff becomes easier where cleaning related roles and responsibilities have been firmly agreed. In doing this, internal FMs or outsourced cleaning teams should look to empower individual operatives to take a unified approach to standards and ensure that they report issues promptly, instead of only focusing on their own personal performance. This becomes easier if there is one central point of contact to highlight issues to and a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to addressing these immediately. This means providing documented evidence of the entire process, from reporting through to resolution.
The level of risk naturally varies throughout a healthcare facility in terms of the increased likelihood of infections being transferred and carried to another area of the building.
Official NHS guidelines clearly reflect this by outlining the need to identify high and very-high-risk areas, defined by the probability of a patient contracting an infection as a direct result of low cleanliness standards.
Parts of the building where clinical activity takes place – or ‘patient zones’ – are clearly a priority here, but FMs should not forget the need to prevent the transfer of infection from one area to another, as well as within a zone itself. It is, therefore, important to adapt local cleaning regimes for high and very-high-risk zones.
Of course, connecting areas should also be comprehensively sanitised to underpin wider efforts. Taking the attitude that only clinical areas need addressing is dangerous. As well as undoing good intentions, it directly risks the wellbeing of patients, visitors and staff. This is where product choice can play a key role. Although there may be the need for more-specialist cleaning products in clinical areas, backing this up by using a multi-purpose cleaner throughout an entire facility provides an extra safeguard.
It is pointless implementing a comprehensive cleaning regime if it is not regularly audited to identify and address any issues or anomalies. As mentioned earlier, achieving this requires a team of operatives to work in a cohesive and responsible fashion, where the reporting of issues is seen as a tool for improving standards for the benefit of all.
The responsible reporting of issues is only half the battle. If there is not a firm and responsive facility for quickly addressing concerns, the risk of not taking prompt action increases. This is where an internal FM team can come into its own – even if they are managing an outsourced team of operatives. By implementing a clear pathway of reporting, action and evidence, they fulfil their direct responsibility in this area.
To meet the recent regulations, vendors in the healthcare sector should constantly look to challenge their approach. The most-efficient way for a supplier to manage this is to ensure they have a deep understanding of the business’s needs by speaking to decision makers and managers from a facility or individual departments or sites. By realising the small differences in requirements for each site and utilising industry expertise in hygiene and health and safety, suppliers can put together tailored packages for each customer that demonstrates their commitment to quality and professional standards.
In such a crucial service area as healthcare cleanliness, vendors should assume the role of strategic business partner, rather than a mere supplier of products. Those that strive to understand the dynamics of a facility or trust and fit their industry knowledge and service provision around this are best suited to servicing healthcare-related businesses.
Official guidance around cleaning standards in healthcare is an essential tool for FMs working in the sector, with efforts to adhere often being externally audited. However, it is vital that internal processes and checks are properly implemented in order to provide reassurance that high standards of hygiene and cleanliness are not only being met, but exceeded.