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Nurses regularly forced to perform heavy cleaning duties, survey finds
The results of a survey of 1,000 nurses and health assistants, conducted by Nursing Times and published this week, has confirmed that they are regularly carrying out the type of cleaning duties that one would normally expect the cleaning staff to undertake.
More than 50% of the survey's respondents say that they believe cleaning services for their own ward are inadequate, while around 20% say that their trust had made cuts to the cleaning budget within the past 12 months.
They claim that these cuts have led to them being forced to disinfect washrooms and mop floors: a third of them say they have carried out one or both of these tasks at least once in the last 12 months.
Some also report having to clean offices, nursing stations, computers and corridors.
Around 40% say they have cleaned a bed area or a single room that has been vacated by a patient who was infectious, while some 80% say they have performed this task following the discharge of a non-infectious patient.
Almost 75% say they have not been trained to carry out such cleaning practices.
Very worryingly, 37% reveal that their trust would be prepared to allow a patient to be put into a bed that might not have been properly cleaned following occupation by the previous patient!
Defending its members' concerns about their need to undertake cleaning tasks, the Royal College of Nursing's adviser on infection prevention and control, Rose Gallagher, told Nursing Times:
"This is not about saying nurses are too posh to wash. Cleaning in hospitals is not the same as cleaning your own home."
The magazine argues that despite new specifications on cleaning in hospitals having been published last year by the Department of Health, National Patient Safety Agency and the British Standards Institution, these omitted to specify what could be considered 'appropriate cleaning duties' for nurses.
Tracey Cooper, president of the Infection Prevention Society, told the publication:
"Nurses are the guardians of the standards of their wards... Cleaning has always been an integral part of what nurses do. The risk comes when there is a lack of clarity about processes and who is responsible (for them) because then you get things that nobody cleans."
Andrew Jones, president of the Association of Healthcare Cleaning Professionals, argued that it was "inevitable" that nurses would have to do some cleaning of patient areas when cleaning staff were not available to help.
He believes though that the best practice for hospital wards should be that each has a dedicated cleaner.
"When this happens, we get better cleanliness standards and a better motivated workforce," he argued. "Some of the responses to the survey would suggest that this is not the case as often as we would want."
Discussions on web forums as a result of this research being made public, show that some of the cleaning tasks undertaken by nursing staff includes those that would be considered by the cleaning industry to be of a technical nature and which normally require specialist training - such as the cleaning up of body fluids such as vomit, urine, faeces and blood.
For the full survey results, visit:
6th September 2012