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Date: Weds 11 July 2007

Cleaning and staffing are the only way to tackle the root problem of hospital infections - UNISON

Improving the quality of cleaning and ensuring that staffing numbers in ancillary and nursing are improved are the ways to tackle the key problems behind Healthcare Acquired Infections (HAIs), says Scotland's largest healthcare union, UNISON.

On the day that the first comprehensive Scottish Executive report into HAIs is released the union is calling for the results to lead to action to Willie Duffy, UNISON Regional Officer with responsibility for ancillary staff, said: "The quality of cleaning in hospitals has declined since the introduction of competitive tendering of hospital cleaning in the 1980s and the continuing outsourcing of cleaning at PFI hospitals. It is no coincidence that the lowest levels of HAI in the UK are found where there are the lowest levels of contracting out - in Wales."

The report produced today, shows that the problem of HAIs occur across all hospitals in Scotland. UNISON welcomes the report and the suggested monitoring. But the union insists that the service needs to tackle the root problems behind infections.

Willie Duffy said "The comprehensive nature of this survey, and the recommendations for continuing surveys to monitor HAIs are welcome. But it remains a survey of current incidence. What is required is to address the issues of cleaning and staffing that need to be resolved if the good work of the HAI task force is to deliver reduced levels of infection."

UNISON recommends a series of steps to tackle infection in hospitals, including: - Improving the quality of cleaning - this is more likely to be effective than specific virus-related control measures - Increasing the numbers of staff - both cleaning and nursing staff - and set minimum safe staffing levels for cleaning services - End contracting out, and bring back into the NHS family the cleaners in hospitals - Allow for greater involvement of staff - cleaners, supervisors, nurses and managers - in setting and monitoring cleaning standards - Make sure cleaning staff have the best equipment, materials and training - Ensure all hospital staff and visitors can make sure they abide by cleaning guidelines.

UNISON is Scotland's largest health union representing 60,000 health workers.


Note to editors: A UNISON factsheet on HAIs is available on http://www.unison.org.uk/acrobat/B3176.pdf

For Further Information Please Contact: Willie Duffy (Regional Officer) 07904 342 129 (m) Glyn Hawker (Scottish Organiser) - 07876 441 237(m) Dave Watson (Scottish Organiser) 07958 122 409 (m) Chris Bartter (Communications officer) 07715 583 729(m)