Hospital 'does not have enough cleaners'

A SUFFOLK hospital is putting patient health at risk by not employing enough cleaners, it was claimed last night.

Laurence Cawley

A SUFFOLK hospital is putting patient health at risk by not employing enough cleaners, it was claimed last night.

Delegates at Unison's conference in Manchester heard how West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds had just three cleaners tending to the needs of more than 60 patients.

The situation, according to one cleaner at the hospital, meant if one of the cleaners was off sick standards would inevitably fall - though the hospital last night defended its infection control record and said it had a high quality cleaning regime.

At the conference Unison, the health union, called for a raft of measures nationally to ensure wards are kept clean and safe for patients.

The union called for more cleaners - at least two per shift for every 30 patients - to be employed and for special committees to be established at every hospital in the country to oversee its cleaning programmes.

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Gill Malik, a cleaner at West Suffolk Hospital Trust, said at the conference: “We have just three staff to cover two wards of 66 patients, which is simply not enough to get the job done.

“We are so short-staffed that when a cleaner has a day off there is no-one to replace them and of course the standards fall.”

The union claimed there were no minimum staffing levels for cleaners or times for hospitals to be cleaned. It called for hospitals to be cleaned from 8am to 9pm.

Karen Jennings, Unison's head of health, said: “We need to use the whole hospital team if we are going to fight off these super bugs.

“Cleaning staff are frustrated because they know which cleaning products are effective, what equipment they need, how many staff it takes to really clean a ward well, but they are rarely consulted or listened to.

“It should be a requirement that all NHS organisations have safe minimum staffing levels for their cleaning services that are based on quality, not cost, and with staff receiving proper, up to date training and equipment.”

A spokesman for West Suffolk Hospital said: “We all share the views of Unison in being committed to providing a safe environment for health care and we have made significant investment to achieve a high standard of cleanliness. In the past financial year we have significantly reduced cases of Clostridium difficile and MRSA, meeting the national set targets.

“The Trust has recently received two visits from the Strategic Health Authority regarding healthcare associated infections and on both occasions they were more than satisfied with the work being carried out to reduce the number of infections and the standards of cleanliness.

“Also, we recently had a Patient Environment Action Team (PEAT) inspection that graded the hospital's cleaning environment as good.

“The housekeepers are regarded as an important part of the ward teams and they work very closely with the matrons to ensure a high standard cleaning regime in place.”

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