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Helping the NHS to develop new National Standards of Healthcare Cleanliness during Covid-19

In all the hospitals where we operate, our Domestic Services colleagues support clinical outcomes by providing a clean and safe environment to enhance patient experience. Cleanliness is intrinsically linked to infection prevention and control, which are essential to ensure that healthcare service users receive safe and effective care.

In 2018, we were asked by NHS Improvement (now NHS England and NHS Improvement – NHSI/E) to contribute our expertise in healthcare facilities management (FM) to the transformation of the ‘National Specification for Cleanliness in the NHS’ into the new ‘National Standards of Healthcare Cleanliness’.

The National Specification for Cleanliness was originally developed as guidance for healthcare providers, to help them ensure delivery of quality cleaning services that properly address infection risks. Once updated, the new ‘National Standard’ will be redeployed as mandatory for all UK healthcare environments, including acute care, mental health care, general practitioner practices, care homes and ambulance services.

Through 2019 and 2020, our UK Health colleagues Penny Lewis, Soft Facilities Management Solution Lead, and Caroline Fennessy, FM Specialist – Cleaning, have been part of a working group set up by NHSI/E. The group has focused on developing the new National Standard, and specifically:

  • ensuring that it reflects new cleaning practices and ways of working and aligns to guidance from the Infection Prevention Society and the Royal College of Nursing;

  • combining it with the ‘Revised Healthcare Cleaning Manual’, originally developed to help ensure that cleaning is clearly defined and carried out in a thorough and effective manner; and

  • ensuring that the new integrated set of standards can be applied effectively in all required healthcare settings.

Working alongside other cleaning professionals from within NHSI/E and its supply chain, Penny and Caroline helped to develop a draft of the new National Standard, responding to NHS Trust feedback throughout. As a result of their input, the new standard now provides clear and concise guidance for all areas of cleaning, including a new risk categorisation system, a new responsibilities framework, updated operational policies and expanded guidance for cleaning audits.

Although Covid-19 has caused delay, the project has remained live throughout the pandemic to ensure that the new standard stays up to date in its draft form, especially given the rapidly changing context. Sign off and launch is now expected in 2021.

Meanwhile, as an active member of the Association of Healthcare Cleaning Professionals, Caroline has been involved in the development of implementation workshops that will enable healthcare providers to more easily apply the new standard. In addition, we have developed an implementation programme for our own operations and are working with our NHS Trust customers to support them in realigning from the current standard to the new – efficiently, effectively and within expected timeframes.