An infection control plan is an established set of procedures that every care home should have in place in order to maintain stringent hygiene standards. Whilst processes and procedures will vary between care establishments, the infection control plan must be well documented and accessible to all staff, residents and visitors. With the daily operational pressures, it is vital to always be mindful of the following five steps:
1. Hand hygiene
This step may seem obvious as it should be something we are all acutely aware of, especially in our post-COVID world. However, messaging around hand washing needs to be reinforced in every infection control plan. It is the single most important factor for preventing the spread of infection. Staff, visitors and residents need to be reminded to wash and disinfect their hands regularly to prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses. It is especially important to specify what the process is, and that is must always be vigilantly adhered to, especially after ‘hands-on’ contact with residents or with contaminated laundry. We would recommend signage in handwashing and laundry areas to this effect.
Your infection control plan needs to define when staff need to wear Personal Protective Equipment. Within a care environment, you will need to specify when disposable aprons and gloves are required. In a care home, where staff are likely to come into contact with bodily fluids, this PPE must be readily available at all times. Perhaps you will have ready for collection from your care home laundry room? There must be clear procedures in place not just for the distribution of PPE, but also for its responsible disposal. Dirty PPE must never come into contact with clean laundry and clean PPE must be segregated from dirty laundry at all times.
3. Effective decontamination
With the inevitable management of waste and infectious substances within a care environment, it is imperative to ensure effective decontamination at all times. We would always recommend a sluice sink is used to enable most of the residue to be removed before items enter the wash cycle. It is vital that care homes only use commercial laundry appliances as domestic laundry machines will not meet industry, WRAS or CQC hygiene standards. It is also essential to choose robust commercial laundry appliances that are large enough to handle the daily throughput. Forbes recommends Miele commercial laundry machines as their washing machines enable both sluice and thermal disinfection, to kill viruses and bacteria. Within any laundry function, segregation of dirty items is paramount for maintaining hygiene standards and needs reinforcing within the infection control plan.
For the care sector, there are very specific requirements in order to adhere to the stringent industry and WRAS regulations. It is essential to ensure that the guidelines are met across all operations within your care home. An infection control plan will help to underline essential messaging around compliance procedures. With regards to your laundry function, NHS infection control guidelines (HTM-01-04) specify that, within health and social care environments, the wash cycle must meet and hold specific times and temperatures, as follows:
10 minutes at 65° or over
3 minutes at 75° or over
1 minute at 85° or over
Our Miele commercial washing machines meet the above conditions as well as the requisite Waterboard Regulatory Advisory Scheme (WRAS) Category 5 stipulations for the avoidance of water contamination. We would recommend that care homes opt for a commercial washing machine with one-way valve fitted to ensure that any potentially infected water exits through the normal waste system.
5. Efficient Communication
In order to efficiently and consistently implement your infection control plan, you need to ensure that all staff are kept up to date of the required procedures. The plan needs to be properly communicated, distributed and enforced. We recommend that a wall mounted copy is clearly displayed in areas such as the laundry room and above hand-washing basins.
If you are looking to buy or rent commercial laundry equipment, it is important to be aware of the relevant hygiene requirements. These will impact not only to the choice of commercial washing machines but also the laundry room layout and processes surrounding the laundry function. Contact Forbes Professional to discover how we can help you establish efficient infection control processes and ensure hygiene compliance within your laundry function.