Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Cleaning duties 'not always clear' between nurses and domestics


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”

Susan Brimelow

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.


survey services

“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.


Readers' comments (3)

  • It is not really a matter of who's job it is. It is a matter of ensuring sufficient staff, either nursing or cleaning, are available when the work needs doing. If there are staff and the job still isn't being done, then there needs to be disciplinary action taken. If there are insufficient staff, or staff are over worked which I suspect is really the case, then disciplinary action should be taken against the managers/trusts responsible, but we all know this won't happen, staff at the bottom of the pecking order will get the blame....

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Rex Murphy | 25-Mar-2015 1:17 am

    reported as SPAM

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • It certainly is actually a matter of whose job it is. Nurses being asked to lie under beds to clean the bed frame is an industrial standard of cleaning for which specialised support staff should be employed. No other profession would have so much put on it. It's not a matter of thinking cleaning is beneath you but if you spend extended amounts of time on cleaning tasks then the focus is diverted away from direct patient care, for which you are criticised too. It's also questionable whether it's actually safe infection control practice to spend time exposed to dirt and grime to then perform intimate care on a patient. Industrial cleaners wear overalls, nurses don't!!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.