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Staff cleaners ‘better’ at meeting infection control improvement targets

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Trusts that use in-house cleaners appear to meet infection control improvement targets better than those that contract cleaning services out, a Nursing Times investigation has revealed.

Using in-house cleaning staff appeared to double the chances of trusts reaching their individual targets for reducing MRSA cases from their 2003–2004 baseline, as rated against the number of cases reported in the Healthcare Commission’s annual health check for 2007–2008.

Nursing Times asked the 170 NHS acute trusts in England whether they used in-house or contracted cleaners, obtaining replies from 92. Of those that responded, 40% of trusts with in-house cleaners reached their MRSA reduction targets compared with 20% of those with contract cleaners.

The Scottish Executive and the Welsh Assembly both intend to bring all NHS cleaning back in-house. Unison and the RCN have called for moves to bring hospital cleaners under the direct control of ward staff in England.

Rose Gallagher, RCN infection control adviser, backed the move. ‘The critical component is how cleaners are integrated into ward teams,’ she said. ‘Nurses find it very disruptive when they don’t have consistency in cleaners, and that’s more likely to happen with contracted out services than in-house.’

Martin Kiernan, president of the Infection Prevention Society and an infection control nurse at Southport and Ormskirk NHS Trust, agreed that in-house cleaners were more likely to perform better because they felt part of the ward team.

‘The in-house domestics here feel they are cleaning their local hospital. When we get good results we share it with them and say they are doing a good job,’ he said. ‘I’m not sure feedback on good results is always fed back through the contract process to the cleaners themselves.’

But a Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘Whoever provides the cleaning, what matters is that hospitals are kept clean, and that staff are well managed and motivated to do a good job.’

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