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Nurses left to fill gaps in cleaning


More than half of nurses believe cleaning services at their organisation are inadequate, with around a third saying they have cleaned toilets or mopped the floor during the past year.

Over 1,000 nurses and healthcare assistants responded to our survey on cleaning practices and attitudes.

It follows criticism of Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Foundation Trust for leaving nurses to “deep clean” bed areas following the discharge or transfer of infectious patients.

A fifth of survey respondents said their trust had cut cleaning services in the last year, while 37% said their trust would not close a bed if it had not been cleaned properly.

Two fifths said they had cleaned a bed area or single room following the discharge of an infectious patient, and 81% had cleaned up after the discharge of a non-infectious patient.

However, almost three quarters had not received training on how to do so.

Rose Gallagher, the Royal College of Nursing’s adviser on infection prevention and control, said lack of training was a patient safety risk.

“This is not about saying nurses are too posh to wash… Cleaning in hospitals is not the same as cleaning your own home,” she said.

It is best practice for acute trusts to have 24/7 cleaning services. However, only 60% of respondents working in acute trusts knew their hospital had one.

Ms Gallagher said it was important nurses made sure they knew what level of cleaning support they were supposed to be getting.

Of those respondents that said they did have a 24/7 service, 51% said there were not always enough cleaners and they had to carry out extra cleaning duties at nights and weekends, However, 30% said they were required to provide cleaning support at all times of the day or night.

Nurses reported cleaning corridors, computers, nursing stations, offices and waiting areas.

Andrew Jones, president of the Association of Healthcare Cleaning Professionals, told Nursing Times he would not expect these jobs to fall to nurses, but it was “inevitable” nurses would end up doing some cleaning of patient areas during out of hour periods.

He said a number of hospital trusts had looked at having dedicated cleaning teams to do all discharge cleaning, but could not make it work logistically because most patients were discharged at around the same time.

Mr Jones said best practice required a ward to have a dedicated cleaner who could become part of the team.

“When that happens we get better cleanliness standards and a better motivated workforce,” he said. “Some of the [survey] responses would suggest that’s not the case as often as we would want.”

A new specification on cleaning in hospitals was published last year by the Department of Health, National Patient Safety Agency and the British Standards Institution. However, it does not specify what is appropriate and not appropriate for nurses to do. Instead it stresses the importance of being clear about responsibilities.

Respondents to our survey had a mixed attitude towards how much cleaning nurses could expect to do, with 16% saying nurses should not do any cleaning.

Tracey Cooper, president of the Infection Prevention Society, questioned whether it was the best use of resources to use registered nurses to clean, but said not doing any at all was unacceptable.

She said the most important thing was that everybody knew who was responsible for different cleaning duties.

“Nurses are the guardians of the standards of their wards… Cleaning has always been an integral part of what nurses do,” she said. “The risk comes when there is a lack of clarity about process and who is responsible because then you get things that nobody cleans.”


Readers' comments (11)

  • Yet another task 'dumped' on Nurses by management. Sure, Nurses are guardians of ward standards and have always provided a good service to maintain patient safety in all aspects of delivering care.
    But Higher Management are also guardians of patient safety and bear actual and vicarious responsibility for providing adequate and professional cleaning facilities in order to maintain the well being of those who use the service.
    Staff included!

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  • Florence

    I chuckled to myself when I read Mr Jones comments about having a Domestic as part of the ward team. I believe that Mr Jones is correct and I wish him well in bringing this idea forward again. I hope his reccomendation is implemented.
    Im old enough to remember having a Domestic who was part of the ward staff ! And who was actually on our Off- Duty.
    I have been known to swirl a mop around when the need has arisen and I do my share if beds and lockers need cleaned after discharge of a patient.
    The Domestics who cover our area work incredibly hard and do an amazing job in the short no of hours they are allocated. They work from 7am to 1pm each day.
    I have nothing but praise for their high standards and they are so kindly to our patients too.
    The reality is that they don't have enough hours to get everything done.
    We have a Domestic who covers our area between 4pm to 5pm. Its not enough. And as far as Im aware we don't have Domestic cover for our area overnight. I dont know if A& E has Domestic cover overnight in our trust.
    I had to deal with a complaint about ward cleanliness the other day. I dealt with it and hoped that the person making the complaint would take it further as it seems to me that the only way to get our Managers to listen is to recieve complaints.
    But even then sometimes our Managers will find a way to deflect the blame back to the Nurses.
    I agree that Nurses are guardians of ward standards.However as it has been correctly said here too the Management are guardians of Patient safety.
    I have no objection to doing a certain amount of cleaning. However my Nursing role, which I totally accept involves some cleaning, must come first.

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  • I thought we were too posh to wash?!

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  • Jodie's mate | 4-Sep-2012 11:08 am

    You are banished from this page for bringing up the 'posh to wash' argument again!

    As punishment your are politely requested to consult the

    "The big question: do people still believe nurses with degrees are too posh to wash?"

    and deposit your Rap there. Some will be published in NT magazine in the letters section.


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  • We have excellent and dedicated domestic staff and we are lucky enough to mainly have the same people each day. However, we don't always have someone all the time. We do have a flying squad too who we can contact out of hours and a special cleaning team that will decon after infectious patients go home. However, there are occasions that I will clear something up to make sure it is safe. (I am a Band 7.) We have to use our discretion. I am aware that we seem to have a good service and not everywhere are as fortunate. It is such a shame that not all organisations put such a high priority on infection control and the dignity and safety of patients and staff. Sometimes I think the NHS has a very short memory - I am sure that most nurses can remember the time when the wards were filthy. My own mother was in an orthopaedic ward for several weeks during the 1990's and being one of the few compos mentis people on the ward, could observe the different domestic staff each day doing the same basic tasks and the ward getting dirtier under beds with dropped food and debris. Most patients could not complain and were not aware. My mother did (in a very polite way), and someone did look into it. Please don't let us get back to those days.

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  • the NHS must be standardised so there is equality in the level of service everybody gets. for areas unable to provide cleanliness, hygiene and other essential services tax contributions for the taxpayers should be reduced accordingly.

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  • get less, pay less!

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  • µ | 4-Sep-2012 11:47 am


    Couldn't help myself

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  • Jodie's mate | 4-Sep-2012 1:28 pm

    µ | 4-Sep-2012 11:47 am

    only teasing. there is no harm in repeating it as much as anyone wants but it is an argument that understandably annoys many and doesn't seem to have much of a basis.
    some other readers and I had a lot of fun composing Rap and rhymes on the other page and I think we all need to let our hair down and take the mickey sometimes, especially on some of these silly issues (stirred up by the press) which get brought up from time to time.

    I asked Nadine Woogara, an NT Editor if we could have a dedicated page to these and she said their team were also enjoying the entertainment but as it is not possible to devote a webpage to them they would print some of them in the NT magazine. Her comment explaining this is there too.

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  • No offence taken! No worries.

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