Tough Action Improves Welsh Hospital Cleanliness

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A package of new measures to improve hospital cleanliness and give nurses greater power on hospital wards will be announced by Health Minister Edwina Hart.

The plans include:

* a standalone rapid response cleaning unit in each Trust to undertake 'deep cleans' following outbreaks of infection, refurbishments or where standards have fallen;

* rigorous new proficiency requirements for ward cleaners and time protected specifically for cleaning;

* dedicated cleaning teams and a ward housekeeper working under the supervision of a ward sister or charge nurse in every hospital ward;

* setting up a national advisory forum to review new cleaning technology and products and recommend whether they should be standardised across the NHS; and

* creating an all-Wales monitoring tool across the NHS to help maintain high standards of cleanliness.

Mrs Hart will unveil the plans when she meets ward sisters at the West Wales General Hospital in Carmarthen later today.

The measures are a result of recommendations made by a working group comprising nursing staff and health representative bodies including the Royal College of Nursing, UNISON and the Royal College of Midwives.

Plans for new nurses' uniforms designed to reduce the risk of infection, improved laundry and staff changing facilities, and Trusts to have stockpiles of uniforms to enable frequent changing were unveiled earlier this week.

Edwina Hart said:

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We are already working hard to improve hospital cleanliness. Our strategy currently includes training for staff, raising awareness among patients, visitors and staff of the importance of hand hygiene, thorough cleaning of hospitals through in-house teams, reducing the prescribing of antibiotics and increasing the number of single rooms in new hospitals across Wales.

The overall infection rate in Wales is lower than that in England and Scotland, and our strategy has been welcomed by the Wales Audit Office.

However, we are not complacent which is why I am accepting the recommendations of the today's report. These new measures will strengthen our efforts to tackle infections.

I would also stress that cleanliness is everybody's responsibility – not only that of NHS staff but patients and visitors too.

The report also recommends that all new hospitals have single-sex accommodation, and that existing hospitals with mixed gender wards divide those wards in two and provide separate bathroom facilities, to improve dignity of care.

Further recommendations in the report include protecting visiting times and mealtimes and improving nutritional care to speed up patient recovery.

The announcement delivers on the Welsh Assembly Government's One Wales commitments to improve the patient experience, hospital cleanliness and hospital food and nutrition.

Mrs Hart added:

There is no group better placed to make recommendations on these issues than nurses and their representative organisations, where improving the patient experience is central to their beliefs.

I believe that ward sisters and charge nurses must have recognisable authority and are sufficiently equipped with the leadership and management skills to ensure wards are managed effectively. As we celebrate the NHS's 60th anniversary, it is the right time to ensure that nurses are empowered for challenges facing the NHS now and in the future.

These measures will give ward sisters the responsibility and authority to deal with vital issues such as the cleanliness of the ward, nutrition and the standards of dignity and privacy that all patients deserve.

I am extremely grateful to the group for their comprehensive report.

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