In 2009, the National Patient Safety Agency released its Revised Healthcare Cleaning Manual. This document sets out comprehensive working guidelines for the cleaning of NHS healthcare facilities and trusts around the country.

If you’ve taken a look at the manual you’ll know that the sheer weight and level of detail of this 174-page document makes it difficult to scan through. That’s why we’ve created this short guide to navigating your NHS cleaning standards. You’ll find a summary of the main sections here, with page references to help you find the detail you need. We’ve also added some key information about using Hawk to make your cleaning process super-simple and easy to manage.

Let’s dive right in and learn more about the NHS cleaning standards.

Why is cleanliness so important?

As the guide itself states, “Cleanliness is intrinsically linked to infection prevention and control” (page 10). It’s the responsibility of trusts to keep the possibility of secondary infection to a minimum, and “a clean, well-ordered environment provides the foundation for excellent infection control practice to flourish”. Hospitals, with their warm conditions, abundance of bodily materials and waste, and constant influx of human traffic, are ideal conditions for the spread of infection. Cleanliness, therefore, is a matter of critical importance for the safety of patients, members of the public, and staff.

What qualifies as clean?

The guide stresses that cleaners should make sure that areas “not only look clean afterwards, but that they are clean” (page 15). This is an essential infection control paradigm, and management should be aware that cleanliness can’t always be discerned visually. Optimal cleanliness is dependent on cleaners correctly following the methodologies laid out in the guide.

It’s useful to note that the optimal hygiene level of a given area is dependent on its use and exposure to persons at a high risk of infection (page 15). The specifications and frequencies for cleaning at each risk grade are available in the 2007 framework.

How to clean

Upholding the expected standards of hygiene is demanding and not to be underestimated. Fortunately, the guide gives detailed methodologies for cleaning procedures in each of the required zones. The methods are separated into cleaning tasks designated for cleaning staff, and tasks assigned to departmental or nursing staff. This includes the cleaning of both equipment and environments.

Methodologies for cleaning staff and departmental staff can be found in sections 7.1 and 7.2 respectively, with indexes listed on pages 4 and 6. It’s essential to remember that “every single task in each individual area must be assigned to a staff group, have its frequency of performance specified and have a written method statement”.

Cleaning equipment and color-coding

Equipment used for cleaning poses a potential infection risk if not managed correctly. For this reason, the NHS now implements a colour-coded designation system for cleaning equipment and its respective usage zones. The NRLS provides detailed guidelines on its colour-coding system.

Staff and infection risk

Due to the fact that staff will be moving in and out of different areas and may be exposed to infectious substances, they also present a potential infection risk.

Personal hygiene and handwashing (page 18) are therefore of crucial safety importance. Any cuts, scratches, splashes, inoculation injuries, or exposures to bodily substances (both internal and external) should be treated seriously and followed up with immediate action (page 17). Dealing with exposures is particularly crucial for safety, and should be dealt with by staff members who have received the appropriate training.

The guide has numerous articles on health and safety including hazardous substance control, risk assessment, personal safety, and hygiene. These should be reviewed in detail in section 3 (page 22).

Creating your cleaning schedule

Every NHS trust requires a board-approved operational cleaning plan and schedule. The 2007 national specifications give detailed guidance on acceptable cleaning schedules, including examples in appendices 11 and 12 that can help you build your own. You can also find examples in the 2009 guidance in section 6.4.2 (page 43).

It’s important to remember though that there are no national standards for cleaning schedules and that facilities may have differing requirements. Accountability management is, therefore, crucial to ensuring that a schedule is planned correctly and implemented to required specifications. Whilst management structures may vary between facilities, there should always be “a dedicated manager wholly accountable for all cleaning services within health canada pharmacy a healthcare provider”.

For more detail on accountability and cleaning schedules, refer to sections 6.3 and 6.4.

49 core cleaning tasks

To ensure comprehensive cleaning and accountability, the guide identifies 49 key cleaning tasks. When planning your schedule, make sure all 49 tasks are covered, and that cleaning frequencies are compliant with the appropriate risk category of the area as laid out in the 2007 specifications. Note that for Brambles units, there are additional cleaning tasks that will need to be considered in your schedule.

Cleaning with Hawk

At Hawk, we’ve designed a complete, specification-compliant task management solution for your 49 cleaning schedule. Our cloud-based checks template allows management to assign and schedule cleaning tasks to individual staff members or teams.

Using their hand-held checklists, staff members can keep track of what needs to be done, and check off progress as they go. Managers can then use our data visualisation tool to get an instant birds-eye view of the cleaning progress.

The Hawk 49 cleaning solution is ideal for spotting shortfalls in your cleaning process and enables instant accountability attribution for your team. Get in touch here if you’d like to learn more.

Deep cleaning

Alongside your daily cleaning schedule, you may want to consider initiatives for deep cleaning of your trust facilities. Unlike routine cleaning, deep cleaning is a much more involved process that aims to root out difficult to reach areas where bacteria could accumulate over time. Areas to target for a deep clean may include:

– Ceilings and high fixtures

– Behind radiators and heating equipment

– Upholstery

– Light fittings

– Ventilation systems

For detailed guidance on performing a deep clean, see the 2008 NHS deep-cleaning specification: “From Deep Clean to Keep Clean” (download it here).

We hope that’s given you a useful summary view of your NHS Cleaning Specifications. Hospital cleanliness is a big responsibility, but with the right knowledge, frameworks, and tools, optimal hygiene standards are achievable for everyone.