ISS Healthcare has commissioned an innovative and exciting project that will take a scientific, and behavioural, approach to healthcare cleaning. They hope to drive, and change for the better, the nation’s healthcare journey ‘in our places that heal.’
The project, although with COVID-19 as its catalyst, is aiming to ultimately provide a safe clinical environment to help save lives during the pandemic, and beyond. This is change for the future and not just an immediate response to COVID-19.
ISS worked very closely with NHS England and NHS Improvement to develop the recently published ‘National Standards of Healthcare Cleanliness 2021.’ You can read these on the NHS website here.
The newly published Standards encompass all cleaning tasks throughout the NHS regardless of which department is responsible for it. They are based around; being easy to use, freedom within a framework, being fit for the future, the efficacy of the cleaning process, cleanliness providing assurance, and transparency of results. The introduction to the Standards explains that ‘healthcare establishments must be able to demonstrate how and to what standard they are being cleaned.’
The pandemic has proved that confidence in cleanliness and hygiene is absolutely key for life after coronavirus. Nowhere is this more important than in healthcare and hospital environments. This is the ‘transparency of results’; assuring patients, staff and visitors that hygiene standards have been met.
The Standards also explain that a collaborative approach is key for confidence, meaning that different staff groups, both clinical and non-clinical will be responsible for cleaning different elements within an area. They will need to work together to meet the cleanliness standard for the whole area and published ratings will reflect the cleanliness score for different areas. This approach will make it clear again to patients, staff and visitors how clean and area is and will encourage collective responsibility which will ultimately inspire people to work together to achieve a higher standard.
In support of the Standards, the new ISS healthcare strategy is also based on using science to validate the cleaning process. As the pandemic has proved, this will in turn build confidence throughout the NHS, both with patients and staff, as well as support shorter patient stays and provide a safe clinical environment for everyone.
Collette Sweeney, Head of Healthcare Cleaning at ISS, explained: “The application of cleaning science and the impact of behaviour is intrinsically linked to environmental infection control. The purpose of the project is to use science to determine the efficacy and appropriateness of the healthcare cleaning process to deliver evidence-based safe systems of cleaning.’’
Once a service that was kept predominantly behind the scenes, research since the pandemic began has shown that the transparency of cleaning public spaces will be the key factor in regaining consumer confidence, and it is the same story in healthcare environments.
This need for transparency is is clearly the result of increased public awareness about effective cleaning practices, the spreading of germs and even how ‘disinfecting’ actually works, over the past year and a half, combined with a heightened public concern about possibly dangerous germs and infectious diseases. Evidently this is even more important in healthcare environments. The ‘scientific’ approach is something that most members of the public would likely have not thought twice about before COVID; seeing a clean, dry surface or fresh bed sheets would be enough to inspire confidence that it had been cleaned. But the pandemic changed everything. With increased public knowledge of the ‘science’ behind cleaning and hygiene and judging by the new Standards published by the NHS, in collaboration with ISS, there needs to be ‘evidence’ and ‘transparency’ of cleaning to make the public feel safe.
It goes without saying that the ISS and the NHS aim also to ensure that their staff maintain the highest standards of cleanliness possible in order to keep patients safe, and it is not just about the visibility of the cleaning process. But it is worth questioning whether these new Standards would be made quite so visible to the public before COVID? As with every other public spaces or business, cleanliness now must be a top priority in order to thrive in a post-pandemic world. Cleaning routines, processes and staff will need to be perfected, practised and, most importantly, visible.