Headlines: February 28th, 2005

NHS trusts across the country are taking part in ‘Think Clean Day’ today to raise the profile of hospital cleaning and to show what can be achieved in a short time.A poll of cleaners, released to coincide with the event, shows that they believe employing more cleaning staff is the most important step that could be taken to improving hospital cleanliness at a time when it is under scrutiny because of the increase in the numbers of patients being infected with MRSA.

The cleaners were asked what would make their hospitals cleaner. The results put involving all staff in setting standards as the second most important initiative, with better training and better equipment in third and fourth places.

The poll was carried out by the public service union, UNISON. Its General Secretary, Dave Prentis, said it showed that if the government wanted hospitals to ‘Think Clean’ they needed to listen to and learn from the experts and ‘Think Cleaners’.

“Not only has the number of hospital cleaners been halved in the last 20 years, there are enormous vacancy rates and a very high turnover of staff,” he said. Cleaning staff, he added, had been left to cope with the day-to-day problems and difficulties of trying to keep hospital wards and departments clean, without enough staff, proper equipment or training. “With MRSA on the increase to ignore their advice and experience would be foolish,” he said.

Today’s poll also points to comments made by staff about their experiences at a number of hospitals. One highlights the need for more staff with more time to do the job they have been trained for. Another says that in the past she had to take her own materials and equipment to work and a third says in one week eleven staff started on Monday but by Friday all but two had left again.

Around the country hospital cleaners are marking “Think Clean Day’ by adding stickers to posters and noticeboards, using the UNISON “Think Cleaners” slogan. There will be ‘meet the media’ events and in some trusts staff have written to their Chief Executives challenging them to show that cleaning services are getting their fair share of funding.