For both managers and employees in healthcare environments, it’s of paramount importance to maintain the highest possible standards of hygiene. Failure to comply with health and safety regulations can lead to outbreaks of potentially harmful diseases such as Norovirus, resulting in increased risk to patient’s health, employee absenteeism, and consequent disruption to treatment plans and residents’ day to day lives.
A large number of people pass through the doors of a care home on a daily basis, so keeping the environment clean and sanitised can understandably be a challenge for staff. So how can care workers ensure they are providing a sanitised care facility, while at the same time minimising disruption to residents?
The care cleaning routine
When it comes to cleaning, little steps can make a big difference. With most bacteria and viruses transmissible through touch, maintaining surface hygiene goes a long way. A regular cleaning regime should be the cornerstone of your hygiene strategy, as it is a crucial step in helping to prevent outbreaks.
It’s essential that cleaning is carried out in the care home both proactively and reactively
Proactive cleaning involves the routine disinfection of shared contact points – such as door handles, surface tops – and communal areas.
Reactive cleaning occurs as necessary, for example during an outbreak of illness, or when a known transmissible infection is presented by an individual. In this case, all areas inhabited by the individual should be thoroughly disinfected.
Alongside routine cleaning, your regime should include regular thorough deep cleans where all furniture is moved away from walls, to ensure all areas of the facility can be reached. Ideally, additional deep cleans should be carried out at least twice yearly by a professional cleaning company. They will have access to specialist multi-purpose biocidal cleaners which can decontaminate surfaces by killing bacteria, fungi, spores, yeasts and viruses.
Care home managers may also consider having a “Hygiene Healthcheck” consultation, which can analyse the contamination levels present (via a heatmap) and the cleaning strategy in place for all areas of the facility’. This will help to determine an appropriate cleaning regime, with a clear focus on contamination prone areas. It will also help specify the required frequency of deep cleaning, tailored to your facility, and how specialist disinfection should be implemented to enhance everyday infection control measures.
Sanitising hard-to-reach areas
Ultra Low Volume (ULV) disinfectant fogging is a method of disinfection, carried out by a specialist, which enables the treatment of large areas in a short space of time. An extremely fast and efficient process, fogging has a fast-drying time and can significantly reduce the number of pathogens present when compared to manual surface cleaning alone. It can also be used in conjunction with routine and deep cleaning, to ensure all areas are fully sanitised.
Keep your employees in-the-know
It’s essential for care managers to encourage employees to take sufficient care of their own personal health and hygiene to prevent the spread of illness. Continuous training and development for both management and staff, helps to ensure high standards of hygiene are maintained alongside operational efficiency. This can also help prevent unnecessary downtime in the facility.
Above all, don’t neglect the basics of personal hygiene: particularly hand hygiene. Some diseases, like Norovirus, are transmissible for several days and can live on hard surfaces such as door handles and walls. To minimise the spread of bacteria and viruses, hands should be washed thoroughly for 20–30 seconds using soap and water, and then dried properly.
If an outbreak does occur, it’s important that a professional deep clean and disinfectant fogging treatment is carried out. What’s more, employees should not become complacent following a deep clean and ensure standards of cleanliness are kept high. Employee training and constant reinforcement of hygiene best practice is essential.
Maintaining hygienic and resident-friendly premises extends beyond the use of specialist cleaners and the latest cleaning technologies. It also requires the support of staff in taking personal responsibility for their own hygiene as well as being aware of, and following, infection control procedures. By taking these precautions, care homes can ensure they are meeting the standards required both by UK legislation, and those expected by their residents and their loved ones.