How to protect your residents, visitors and staff
Illness in your care home isn’t just unpleasant – it’s also a major health risk to the vulnerable residents who live there. Gastrointestinal illnesses can spread quickly, even when you have proper cleaning procedures in place. It has undesirable knock-on effects: visits from loved ones might be restricted, planned social activities might be cancelled and your home could be temporarily closed to new admissions. This means that outbreak prevention is always better than the cure – and a proper cleaning regimen is key to this.
As a care provider, you know how important it is to prevent the spread of infection, both to ensure the safety of your residents and to meet regulatory standards. CQC inspectors will look for established infection control practices based on regulations set out in the Health and Social Care Act 2008, and can use their enforcement powers if they find evidence that these standards have not been met. Care homes could receive a poor rating or even permanent closure.
How can you prevent the spread of infection in a care home?
There are four main areas to focus on for outbreak prevention:
- Your on-premise laundry
- Your sluice/medical room
- Your surface disinfection routine
- Your kitchen and catering areas
The Laundry Room
Laundry linen – especially items that have been soiled – can harbour bugs like norovirus, MRSA and C.diff, which can spread among residents if disinfection of linen hasn’t been achieved. The Health Technical Memorandum HTM 01-04 sets out that there are two accepted methods for disinfecting laundry in health and social care – thermal and chemical disinfection.
A commercial washing machine that offers you the ability to choose between chemical or thermal disinfection will give you the best possible wash results and offer you a contingency in case one method fails. JLA’s unique OTEX ozone washer system works in cool wash cycles, which helps preserve the quality of linens and extends their lifespan, with the important benefit of reducing operating costs over time.
The Sluice Room
Improper handling and disposal of offensive waste, such as disposable bedpans, can increase the risk of infections, such as gastroenteritis, spreading through your care home and causing ill health. It’s important to have stringent hygiene protocols in place for your sluice room and medical equipment processes to reduce the chances of cross-contamination in other parts of your home.You can also use a macerator to minimise the build-up of yellow-bag waste (also known as tiger-bag waste) in your sluice room.
Disinfection of Surfaces
Viruses and bacteria can linger on surfaces such as tables, chairs, door knobs and kitchen counters, and can quickly spread throughout the premises. While it’s important to have an effective surface cleaning regime, as well as good hand hygiene practices, it can be hard to ensure that you’ve managed to clean hard-to-reach areas where bugs might still be lurking.
Establishing a cleaning schedule that focuses on infection prevention and control will ensure that you are meeting regulatory standards while providing your residents with a safe and comfortable place to live. Identifying and focusing on weaker areas of your cleaning programme could significantly reduce the level of illness in your home. A room sanitiser that uses ozone to disinfect surfaces and neutralise unpleasant odours can be a real asset to your cleaning regime. Simply switch the device on and leave the room.
The Food Safety Act 1990 focuses on the preparation, storage and service of food – and the CQC requires that care homes ensure that the food and drink they provide is handled, stored, prepared and delivered in a way that meets the requirements of the Act. Thermal disinfection dishwashers – optimum method of killing micro-organisms using a specified temperature for a defined time to eradicate the risk of cross-infection – are therefore a must in your care home catering process, and will play a vital role in your outbreak prevention efforts.
If you need help to enhance or improve infection control in your care home, ask a JLA expert for advice on layouts, workflows, regulations and maintenance.