The Department of Health has been shown evidence that just one extra cleaner on a hospital ward can reduce MRSA infections and save tens of thousands of pounds.
The year-long study, sponsored by Unison and published in a peer-reviewed journal, found that one extra cleaner, using targeted cleaning methods, had a “measurable effect on the clinical environment”, reduced new MRSA infections and saved the hospital involved £30,000-£70,000.
The research, published in BMC Medicine and presented to the DH last week, used one extra cleaner on two matched surgical wards from Monday to Friday, with each ward receiving enhanced cleaning for six months. It found enhanced cleaning led to a 32.5 per cent reduction in microbial contamination at hand touch sites.
Cases of MRSA fell in the six months of targeted cleaning on ward A, and then rose again when the cleaner moved to ward B, which in turn saw the number of cases fall.
The researchers found a 26.6 per cent reduction in new MRSA infections on the wards receiving extra cleaning, despite higher MRSA patient days and bed occupancy rates during enhanced cleaning periods. Clusters of new infections were identified 2-4 weeks after the cleaner left both wards.
The research focused on targeting cleaning around specific areas close to patient beds, such as lockers, trays, buzzers, curtains and the beds themselves. Detergent was used in place of commonly used and expensive, eco-damaging alternatives.
The study authors concluded: “This study has shown that one additional cleaner on two surgical wards over one year can have an impact on the microbial contamination of high risk hand touch sites. There is a suggestion that the number of new MRSA infections were reduced relative to the level of MRSA patient days.”
UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “[This] work has shone new light on the absolute importance of putting effective cleaning practices at the heart of infection control. It busts the myth that expensive solutions and disinfectants are needed to keep wards clean and it provides a blueprint for hospitals to cut their own infection rates.”
A DH spokesman said: “Preventing healthcare associated infections continues to be a top priority for the government and we welcome this contribution that demonstrates the importance of infection control and cleaning teams working closely together.”