Supporting Cleaning Staff and the Cleaner Hospitals Campaign

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2008 Health Care Service Group Conference
14 April 2008

Conference notes the attention given to hospital infection rates, and the resulting government campaign for cleaner hospitals.

Because of the requirement to make huge efficiency savings and continuing lack of resources, cleanliness in hospitals is suffering and more and more cleaning staff are having to take on extra duties including “hands-on” patient care.

We note that in the vast majority of hospitals, cleaners are amongst the lowest-paid, least-trained and least-equipped staff in the establishment, frequently working for private contractors who are inadequately monitored and whose overriding motive is making profits, not providing a service. Clear guidance on contracts and standards is needed to help insure hospitals have clear binding contracts to deliver high standards of cleaning.

Dedicated resources are needed with well paid staff being properly rewarded for their expertise, otherwise we are likely to see further outbreaks of infections like MRSA.

We should have a clear strategy to improve hospital cleanliness empowering patients and giving trade union representatives the right to participate in local Physical Environment Action Teams (PEAT) audits and independent inspections with penalties in place for NHS Trust that ignore best practice.

Conference welcomes the initiative taken within Scotland in the setting up of a National Task Force to coordinate and implement an Action Plan which reinforces that infection prevention and control is a key priority for the Scottish government and Health Boards within Scotland.

We welcome UNISON’s campaign of support for hospital cleaning staff and feel that the campaign needs a much higher profile. Therefore the SGE should call:

i.for adequate staffing levels, which in turn means addressing the chronically low pay rates of cleaning staff. The deletion of Band 1, together with the development of good career pathways, should start to address this;

ii.for good equipment: too often cleaning staff have to struggle by on inferior or insufficient quantities of equipment, because their employers are more concerned about costs than quality;

iii.for better training for front line cleaning staff leading to a recognised qualification, to ensure staff are working to the best standards and feel rewarded for taking responsibility for the jobs they do; redouble our efforts to stop cleaning services being privatised, to bring privatised services in-house, and to ensure that all private contractors provide at least as good pay, training, equipment and working conditions as NHS employers; re-launch our UNISON Cleaners Conference in 2008.

Conference calls on the SGE to publicise these objectives, to call on branches and regions to work to achieve them, and to report back to the 2009 Health Group Conference on progress.