Concerns about the fact that currently, no vocational qualifications are required to work as a cleaner in the NHS and many hospital cleaners start work with little knowledge or understanding of the complex processes involved, have promted the Association of Healthcare Cleaning Professionals’ (AHCP) national chair, Denise Foster to today call for the introduction of nationally recognised qualifications and training standards for all NHS cleaning staff.
Hospital cleaners are responsible for cleaning and disinfecting high technology equipment in the NHS worth millions of pounds in operating theatres and other healthcare settings, often with critically ill patients close by. The protocols and equipment used bear little relation to cleaning processes used domestically and in offices and industry.
The absence of professional qualifications to reflect the specialist nature of healthcare cleaning is, say the AHCP, a ‘reflection of a culture that fails to fully recognise and reward professional healthcare cleaning for the critically important role it plays in keeping hospitals clean and free from infection’. The industry body believes professional training should be available at colleges and universities and no one should be able to work in a hospital without first gaining appropriate vocational training and qualifications. And without investment in training and the setting up of a national qualification, AHCP believes that NHS and government efforts to clean up hospitals will continue to fall short of expectations.
In a keynote speech to be delivered at the Association of Healthcare Cleaning Professionals national conference later today she is expected to say:
“As things stand at present, despite the many well publicised cases, such as Mid-Staffordshire, and the huge advances in the sophistication and complexity of the tools and processes available for maintaining cleanliness and hygiene in hospitals, it remains the case that anyone can be recruited as a healthcare cleaner without the need for any training in the increasingly complex protocols and processes involved.”
She is expected to continue:
“It is my view that no one should be able to work in healthcare cleaning without first achieving some level of basic professional qualification. Only by introducing minimum standards of training and knowledge of infection prevention and hygiene control will the objective of driving up standards of cleanliness in our hospitals, clinics and care homes be achieved.”
These comments come as AHCP seeks to revamp its own continuing education, training and development programmes to drive up skill levels in the sector and encourage more young people to choose healthcare cleaning as a career. One of AHCP’s key objectives is to see the introduction of a nationally recognised qualification in professional healthcare cleaning.
This will be Denise Foster’s final speech as AHCP National Chair as her term of office comes to an end. Her successor will be named during the association’s conference this week.