A cash-strapped hospital trust has been criticised by a leading infection control expert for leaving nurses to take on cleaning duties.
A report into stubbornly high rates of MRSA and Clostridium difficile at Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Foundation Trust found the trust’s Dewsbury and District Hospital did not have a round the clock cleaning service on two days of the week.
This meant nurses were having to “deep clean” bed areas following the discharge or transfer of infectious patients.
The report was written by Janice Stevens, former director of the Department of Health’s Cleaner Hospitals Team and a member of the prime minister’s Nursing Quality and Care Forum, and Brian Duerden, former DH inspector of infection control and microbiology,
They said the trusts cleaning processes were a risk that required “urgent attention”.
Writing in the report, Professor Duerden said: “Pressure on beds pushes staff to clean more quickly and anecdotal feedback indicates staff believe bed areas are not being cleaned thoroughly at these times.
“Nurse staffing is already ‘tight’ so taking them away to clean must impact on their time for patient care.”
The trust, which has an annual budget of £430m, is planning to make more than £23m of savings this year but despite that is still expected to finish the year with a £26m deficit.
Staff also reported they had been told commodes could not be replaced due to budgetary constraints, which Professor Duerden warned could increase the risk of C difficile.
The report also criticised the trust for using out of date cleaning guidelines in all three of its hospitals.
Professor Stevens told Nursing Times while it was not unusual for nursing staff to do a “standard” or “green” clean, it was best practice to use cleaners where a patient had shown signs of infection and a deep clean was needed, which could involve changing the curtains and cleaning the floor.
She added: “We base our advice on what we know are good standards.”
Royal College of Nursing infection control adviser Rose Gallagher said nurses had responsibility for ensuring the environment they were caring for patients in was clean, but that did not mean they should be doing the cleaning themselves.
“This is another example of how nurses are under pressure to pick up the slack for services that are not their responsibility,” she told Nursing Times.
In a statement the trust said it did have a 24/7 cleaning service but accepted it was at a “lower level” in the evenings.
A spokesperson said: “In common with other trusts, on occasions members of ward staff may be required to assist with bed space cleaning following the discharge of a patient. This may occur in the evening or overnight and is necessary to ensure that the trust can admit patients requiring emergency admission.
“Our aim is always to discharge patients during the daytime to provide the best possible patient experience.
“The trust is committed to providing hygienic bed spaces and reducing healthcare associated infection rates. We are pleased to report that our infection rates so far this year are equal to, or better than the targets for reduction.”