A lack of clarity over the different cleaning responsibilities of nursing staff and domestic workers has been identified by NHS infection control inspectors in Scotland.
The Healthcare Environment Inspectorate also raised concerns about the cleanliness of patient equipment and poor standards generally in some accident and emergency departments.
“NHSScotland must not slip in the fight against infection”
The inspectorate’s annual report, published today, draws together themes from its hospital inspections during 2013-14.
It noted a number of positives, but also highlighted key areas in need of improvement, especially in A&E cleanliness sand the responsibilities of different staffing groups.
“Generally, nursing staff are responsible for cleaning patient equipment and domestic staff are responsible for cleaning wards and departments. For nursing staff, this includes managing any blood or body fluid spillages,” stated the report.
“We found occasions where some cleaning responsibilities were not clear between nursing and domestic staff, for example the cleaning of patient beds. In some instances, we were told ‘there is no time to clean’ between patient use,” it said.
The inspectorate also warned that a poor standard of cleaning in emergency departments was a “common theme” identified in its visits this year.
Many of its concerns, particularly about the cleanliness of patient equipment, were due to contaminated trolley beds, it said.
But it added that it was “particularly concerned” that the problem included resuscitation areas used to care for critically-ill patients.
“We are aware that emergency departments can be very busy and challenging places to provide patient care. While finding the time to clean in busy areas like this is demanding, it is essential to provide patient confidence that the hospital is safe and clean,” said the report.
“NHS boards and hospitals need to establish clear systems for emergency trolley beds to allow a ‘time to clean’ between patients to avoid any risk of infection,” it stated.
Overall, the inspectorate said cleanliness standards in hospitals were “generally improving”, but it warned against complacency and called on the NHS “must not slip in the fight against infection”.
Its fifth annual report – titled Ensuring your hospital is safe and clean – is based on findings from 51 inspections to 34 hospitals in 14 NHS boards and two special health boards between 1 October 2013 and 31 December 2014. The majority of inspections were unannounced.
Susan Brimelow, Chief Inspector of HEI, said: “We are definitely seeing general improvements across Scotland’s hospitals. It is encouraging to see that there have been big steps forward in our hospitals, and these have had a direct impact on patient safety and cleanliness.
“However, this report shows that even after five years of inspections to drive improvements in cleanliness, hygiene and infection control, standards in some NHS boards continue to fall short of what patients have a right to expect,” she said.