Industry leader calls Government response to life-saving campaign ‘disappointing’ and ‘complacent’

The leader of one of the UK’s biggest industries has accused the Government of being ‘dismissive, arrogant and completely missing the point’ for continuing to disregard a campaign that could help save thousands of lives and ease winter pressures on the NHS.

The British Cleaning Council (BCC), which represents the £59bn cleaning, hygiene and waste industry, wrote to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in early October in support of a report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the Cleaning and Hygiene Industry, entitled Embedding Effective Hygiene for a Resilient UK.

In her letter, BCC Chair Delia Cannings called on the Government to accept in full the report’s 11 recommendations, which would see cleaning and hygiene embedded as a national priority.

The measures would make the UK much more resilient to current common infections such as flu and Covid variants and also better prepared for future public health emergencies – like a future pandemic.

There are thousands of deaths annually associated with flu infections in the UK, according to figures from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

Adopting the measures would reduce the number of people falling ill, cut admissions to hospitals, thereby easing the shortages of beds and the pressures on staff which typically affect UK hospitals in winter, and reduce deaths.

A reply from Health Minister Maria Caulfield MP was recently received by the BCC in response to its original letter to the PM.

The reply said that steps were being taken by the Department of Health and Social Care, the UKHSA and the NHS to plan and prepare for a range of pandemic and emerging infectious disease scenarios.

The letter said the UK had ‘flexible and well-tested pandemic response capabilities’ and that the Government was ‘reviewing non-pharmaceutical interventions and guidance’. It signed off saying ‘I hope this reply is helpful’.

BCC Chair Delia Cannings said: “I am extremely disappointed and frustrated by this dismissive and complacent response, which clearly shows the Government has completely missed the point and failed to engage with this issue of national importance.

“We are calling for the UK to put cleaning and hygiene at the heart of the national agenda and to recognise the vital, frontline role the sector’s skilled and professional cleaning staff have in keeping people healthy, well and safe.

“The nation has to learn the lessons of the Covid-19 pandemic. These steps could save thousands of lives in the future.

“Instead of giving this important campaign the serious thought it deserves and engaging with us, the Government has arrogantly dismissed what we have to say.

“It is completely unacceptable for the Government to treat our industry, one of the biggest in the UK, this way.”

The BCC and 21 organisations from across the industry have been campaigning for the Government to adopt the APPG report since last year.

Industry members are being asked to email their MPs asking them to back the report. Anyone from the sector can download a supporting letter from the BCC’s website to adapt and send to their MP.

Industry members can visit or scan the QR code to find the letter, APPG report and details of their local MP.

The drive takes place under the umbrella of the BCC’s We Clean, We Care campaign, which reflects the qr-code pride that skilled and professional cleaning staff have in the vital, frontline role.

The Embedding Effective Hygiene for a Resilient UK made 11 key recommendations, summarised below:

· The establishment of a joint Government-industry preparedness team to plan for public health emergencies.
· Minimum levels of cleaning materials and equipment to be agreed and made available in readiness.
· Thought to be given to how to increase production during a public health emergency.
· Key frontline worker status must be bestowed upon cleaning operatives and staff working in supply and manufacturing if a pandemic happens.
· Urgent consideration to be given to making cleaning staff eligible for the Skilled Worker Visa scheme.
· Minimum standards for hygiene infrastructure and cleaning in diverse venues to be agreed.
· A standard qualification for cleaning to be developed within the Apprenticeship Levy.
· Training budgets for cleaning operatives should be adequate.
· Government communications around hygiene in times of pandemic should be clear, consistent, sustained, timely, relevant and specific.
· The Government should use behavioural science-based communication campaigns to promote hygienic behaviour to the public.
· The Government should support the cleaning and hygiene industry in realigning perceptions of the industry.

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