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Blogs / 28.06.2022

Why cleaning is everyone’s business

The long-awaited new National Standards of Healthcare Cleanliness are now live and our Head of Healthcare Cleaning & Infection Control, Anna Hallas (MBE), has been at the heart of their development. We caught up with Anna recently to find out more about what these reimagined standards will mean for facilities management in NHS healthcare settings.

Q: First up, Anna, what’s different about these standards?

A: Where to start! Broadly, these standards offer a flexible but standardised way of improving cleanliness across different areas of healthcare – primary care, acute hospitals and mental health settings. They cover cleanliness regardless of who carries out the cleaning, providing greater assurance for patients, staff and visitors to sites.

In day-to-day terms, you’ll notice we’ve updated the risk categories from four to six, and reviewed and increased the elements of assessment from 49 to 50 to better reflect degrees of cleaning. We’ve refined the audit system, introduced more transparency through star ratings and efficacy checks, and we’ve incorporated all modern methods of cleaning.

Some of the standards are an evolution of existing processes, but some are quite new, looking at the process of cleanliness, rather than the outcomes. It’s vital to make sure that things have been done the right way, using the right procedures.

The whole ethos of the standards is consistency across healthcare organisations to provide assurance to patients, visitors and staff that healthcare premises are clean and safe.

Q: Do these standards indicate a big shift in approach to cleaning?

A: On one level, they simply underline the critical nature of cleaning in infection prevention and control. But what’s different is the evolution and development, and the way they invite collaboration.

The standards require healthcare organisations to review their cleanliness and assess their ability to deliver clean and safe environments using the 2021 cleaning standards as a template to guide them. Yes, there are mandatory aspects, but there’s also expert guidance and recommendations on how to create the best possible cleaning approach for each individual healthcare setting.

Q: Collaboration feels like a real theme for the standards?

A: Definitely. We started from the basis that we wanted to make achieving a clean environment everyone’s responsibility – a real collaboration between those involved in developing the standards and those tasked with introducing them into healthcare settings. It goes beyond the cleaning team and includes everyone involved in cleaning in any way. It also includes governance and a board member advocating for cleaning to drive the cleaning agenda in each healthcare organisation. The whole concept is to provide consistency and assurance for patients and visitors – cleanliness matters, and we all need to play our part.

Q: What was it like, helping to put the standards together?

A: It was an absolutely huge privilege to be part of the experts and leading practitioners working under the guidance of Emma Brookes, Head of Soft FM Strategy & Operations – NHS England and NHS Improvement. We took a collaborative approach to creating each aspect, discussed the results, changed things, reviewed the amended outputs, and kept doing that until we were satisfied the standards were ready.

My focus was on developing the auditing and governance section of the standards criteria, as well as supporting colleagues and reviewing other sections. We pooled our knowledge, collaborated and embraced our different areas of expertise to create the best overall outcome.

Q: What type of reception have the standards received?

It’s been fantastic! Healthcare organisations have really grasped the ethos of the standards and have responded to the call to action to review their cleanliness operations. They’ve got behind the standards in a big way and we all feel fortunate to be in a position to support them on their journeys.

Q: How have you helped people put the standards into action?

We started off with training, so our Compass Healthcare teams could understand what the implementation meant for each of our partner organisations and the most efficient ways to go about it. We built in ways to make comparisons that allowed for scenario planning to consider cost and other implications.

We created easy-to-use templates to help our teams and clients through a structured implementation process. These templates range from comparing previous and new cleaning standards, through to guiding functional risk categorisation and determining cleaning frequency. They’re simple and editable, making everything as straightforward as possible. And they’re an effective way to support patients’ confidence in cleanliness by bringing consistency to cleaning in healthcare organisations.

There’s a fantastic suite of documents – centrally produced ones that are available to all healthcare organisations, and ones developed specifically for Compass Healthcare colleagues that take the standards to the next level.

Q: You seem confident the standards will be transformative – how can you be sure?

A: Short answer – testing, developing, revising and testing again. Here at Compass Healthcare, we used our partnership with Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust to show exactly how implementation could look. Again, collaboration was vital – we got everyone involved, at all levels in the organisation. We looked at risk categories, cleaning frequencies, responsibility frameworks and cleanliness charters, and worked closely together to ensure we fully implemented the new standards.

We focused on being a single point of contact for all the expertise the Trust needed, helping them to confidently establish a tailored cleaning policy.

Q: Emma Brookes called out your work with Royal Surrey as a beacon of best practice – what did she highlight?

A: She was kind enough to recognise the effective partnership we built with Royal Surrey, and the way we prioritise getting things done right for patients, staff and the site itself.

From my point of view, what made the standards work so well at Royal Surrey was investing time in helping the Trust explore what they needed from their cleaning operation. We demonstrated how flexible the standards are, walked them through the purpose of each section, created the collateral they needed and crafted their solution. And I was available to advise at every step of the way.

Q: As a core part of the National Standards of Healthcare Cleanliness development team, what advice would you share with NHS organisations starting their implementation journey?

A: Well, I’d say that ultimately it is the healthcare organisation that hold the responsibility for implementing the standards and as everyone is starting from a different start point, it’s important to remember that the journey will be different for everyone. But what every journey has in common is the essential need for engagement and knowledge sharing.

The trusts need to start by deciding if they want to migrate their current standards  to the new standards, or if they want to take the opportunity to review all their processes and make significant changes.

We can help and support both the decision making process and the particle steps required to implement the standards

Once they’ve made that decision, remember we created the standards to be a practical, easy-to-use, easy-to-change process, so embrace it and get the most from it.

If you’d like to know more about how Anna and our team can advice and support you to implement the National Standards of Healthcare Cleanliness, get in touch:  


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