Page last updated at 13:37 GMT, Tuesday, 29 April 2008 14:37 UK

Team ethic 'keeps hospital clean'

By Nick Triggle
BBC News at the RCN conference, Bournemouth

Dominic Walsh
Dominic Walsh says little things have a big impact

Nurses have called for an end to the use of private firms to clean hospitals. They say in-house teams are much better at keeping hospital infections at bay. Why?

Each year at the Royal Free Hospital's Christmas party for the intensive care team, lead consultant Steve Shaw makes a speech.

In it he thanks one particular group for their hard work - the cleaners.

"It is just a little thing but demonstrates how much they are valued," says Dominic Walsh, a senior nurse in the team.

I have worked in hospitals which used private firms and the dirt was there for all to see
Dominic Walsh

The London trust is one of a dwindling band of hospitals to keep cleaning in-house rather than farming it out to private firms.

It means the 24-bed intensive care department has a dedicated set of cleaners and Mr Walsh believes this is helping keep infections at bay.

MRSA rate down

The department has not had an MRSA blood infection for the past nine months, while overall the hospital has seen the infection rate drop by 60%.

"I do not think it is a coincidence. I disagree with those people that say contracting out cleaning does not have an impact, said Mr Walsh.

"I have worked in hospitals which used private firms and the dirt was there for all to see."

The 28-year-old says one of the advantages of in-house cleaners is that they feel part of the team and end up going above and beyond the call of duty.

As part of the hospital's drive to tackle infections, a range of hygiene measures have been introduced.

This includes rules in intensive care only allowing two people at a patient's bedside at any one time and insisting that all staff and visitors are "naked below the elbow".

"Our nurses are constantly challenging people who are not taking the right precautions.

"They tell relatives who come in what they should be doing - washing their hands, takings their watches off and rolling up their sleeves.

"These are the sort of things that as a nurse when you are busy with patients you do not always spot.

But because the cleaners are there doing their bit and more we know the cleaning and hygiene rules are being followed."

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