Hospital employee cleaning hospital bed

Why cleaning in healthcare settings is key to patient safety and experience

Published on : 7/18/22
Reading time : 4 min
  • Hospital cleaning is one of the most critical aspects of an optimal patient experience. It ensures patient safety and contributes to a valuable hospital reputation. New research with NHS Trust executives examines the role of facilities management in hospitals and explores how cleaning has never been more important. Read the article to know more.


    Why is patient safety important in hospitals?

    The pandemic has driven home how important it is for facilities managers to keep on top of the ever-changing governance and guidelines around healthcare cleaning. And, since its importance has been increasing, the cleaning industry is playing a crucial role in enhancing patient care and satisfaction.

    Over the last two years, FM teams and healthcare cleaning has played an essential role in maintaining patient safety by limiting exposure to contaminated surfaces.

    The more we learn about the transmission of Covid-19 and HCAIs, the more we know this cleaning must be both thorough and consistent to ensure patients are protected and safety standards are met.


    Patient safety and healthcare cleaning post Covid-19

    he National Standards for Healthcare Cleanliness 2021 are not without controversy.

    An HSJ article, “‘Disproportionate’ infection control holding back electives, says NHS bosses” published on 21 March 2022 has suggested that the infection control rules that have been put into place due to Covid are now disproportionate to the risks and are too restrictive for this stage of the pandemic.1

    There may no longer be a justification for the strain on hospital capacity and efficiency these rules induce, and it has been said they are a "key reason why the NHS is still carrying out substantially fewer elective procedures than pre-Covid".1

    There are differing views on the subject - some believe the rules should now be relaxed, but others believe it is too soon and relaxing the rules prematurely would pose a threat to patients. However, there is consensus that creating a safe environment is key to a good patient flow.


    The costs of poor cleaning

    The cleaning of surfaces lays the foundation for processes such as disinfection and sterilisation to work – and this is crucial for infection prevention control teams.

    Due to the risk of healthcare-associated infections in hospitals, which as well as Covid-19 includes C-Diff and MRSA, the cleaning processes required are complex and areas will often need to undergo full environmental decontamination, combining both cleaning and disinfection techniques. Increases in cases of healthcare-associated infections is not only a patient safety concern but can also cost hospitals financially and in reputation.

    Facilities managers need to consider in their risk analysis factors such as the level of traffic in an area, key touch points and level of infection risk - all contributing to the type of cleaning response required. In a dynamic hospital environment - where new risks will frequently arise, healthcare cleaning staff must be knowledgeable, methodical in their work and mitigate possible risks. 


    Role of cleaning in improving patient safety and experience

    In addition to ensuring patient safety, cleaning is also critical to patient experience and satisfaction. The importance of hospital cleanliness is recognised by patients - in recent data from Sodexo Health & Care/YouGov, 50% of inpatients agreed that cleanliness impacts their hospital experience.2

    This ranked as the second most important factor, with only the friendliness of clinical staff having a greater impact. Hence, poor cleaning can be detrimental to the public perception of a hospital.

    In recent research carried out by Sodexo Health & Care, conversations with NHS chief nurses indicate that high standards of service are an expectation of any healthcare cleaning team, rather than just something that could help providers stand out. “You talk about poor standards, quite honestly if you can’t sort those out with the team that you’re working with, there’s something wrong isn’t there?”2

    The general consensus amongst interviewees is that a good relationship with cleaning teams and up-to-date knowledge of the cleaning standards are integral to success.

    Said one Director of Nursing: “I honestly believe that you have to work closely with cleaning teams to understanding the process of what the KPIs are for cleaning, and you have to get that relationship right.”2

    But when issues arise, open communication will be essential to maintaining that relationship.


    Ensuring cleanliness in healthcare settings


    Guidance and regulation on healthcare cleaning

    This is consistent with the latest NHS guidance regarding cleanliness standards which addresses the fact that cleaning is shared by clinical and non-clinical teams.

    The National Standards of Healthcare Cleanliness 2021, published by NHS England and NHS Improvement, promotes a “focus on the need for a collaborative approach” in which “different staff groups, both clinical and non-clinical, will be responsible for cleaning different elements within an area; they need to work together to meet the cleanliness standard for the whole area.”3

    Collaboration and co-learning amongst cleaning teams and clinical staff will be essential going forward.


    Using technology to improve services and operations

    The Covid-19 pandemic has brought greater attention to the importance of cleaning and infection control. The ongoing training and expertise of cleaning teams, the use of new technologies and infection prevention methods, and the monitoring and tracking of processes will be key to meeting the high standards set out for cleanliness in our clinical settings.

    Providers will need to go beyond a basic cleaning provision and think about how they can innovate to meet the demand for excellent quality cleaning services and deliver a great patient environment. 

    A key takeaway from these developments is that there is demand for optimisation of healthcare cleaning processes. Advances in cleaning services will likely have a role to play going forward.

    Automating processes can save staff time, reduce administrative costs, and provide access to accurate, up-to-date data. Real-time, accurate data is essential in hospital settings to ensure patient safety. New technology is continuing to make the monitoring of cleaning processes more effective and optimised.

    For example, Sodexo Health & Care’s innovative healthcare cleaning service Protecta aims to take cleaning a step further by focusing on reducing infections. Protecta’s auditing and monitoring systems are combined with the latest technologies and trained specialists. This is designed to focus on patient safety and support Trusts in delivering the new National Standards for Healthcare Cleanliness 2021.4


    Discover Protecta

    Discover our Infection Control and Prevention Services.

    Know More


    1. Illman, J. (2022) ‘Disproportionate’ infection control holding back electives, say NHS bosses. London: The HSJ.

    2. Sodexo Buyer Journey Research: 17 qualitative interviews with NHS representatives, carried out between Nov 2021 - Jan 2022

    3. NHS England. (2021) National Standards of Healthcare Cleanliness 2021. London: NHS England.

    4. Sodexo Health and Care. (2022) Infection prevention with Protecta. London: Sodexo Health & Care.