The British Cleaning Council and members write monthly columns for both Cleaning and Maintenance and Tomorrow’s Cleaning. You can read recent columns below.
Hospital staff facing winter pressures deserve the nation’s thanks
By Delia Cannings, Chair of the British Cleaning Council. (This column first appeared in Tomorrow’s Cleaning magazine).
Winter is the busiest time of the year for hospitals and their cleaning teams, working to protect the health of staff, patients and visitors.
Following last year when the healthcare sector suffered one of the worst years on record for winter pressure, the Government invested £200 million to boost NHS resilience.
Despite this, hospitals are again under immense pressure this winter and for some NHS trusts the situation is worse than it was during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Towards the end of 2023, we saw an increase in seasonal illnesses like flu, norovirus, RSV and whooping cough combined with a new Covid variant to create a wave of illness across the country, leading to a rise in patients being admitted to hospitals.
During 2023 industrial action further exacerbated the problem leading to longer waiting lists and delays leaving elderly and sicker patients even more vulnerable and patient health declining further.
The cost-of-living crisis has also had severe ramifications on winter pressures, according to a recent survey.
The increase in energy costs is having an impact on the health of many vulnerable people, one in 11 adults have run out of food trying to juggle finances while almost a third of adults said that their mental health was in decline.
The rise in demands on A&E departments we traditionally see during Christmas and New Year has a knock-on effect into January and February.
The increase in drinking during party season, more people travelling over the festive season or rushing to complete shopping and other tasks results in more admissions.
The rain, winds, ice, sleet and snow of winter also increases the risks of road traffic accidents, slips and falls.
As a result, hospitals are now full of patients and yet staff shortages remain throughout the NHS.
Hospitals stepped up their winter resilience plans incorporating the provision of extra beds, yet that still was not enough to cope in many hospitals.
Patient flow is being seriously hampered by lack of free beds in care homes and residential homes meaning some patients who have recovered have nowhere to go.
With demand outweighing the availability of rapid response teams engaged and deployed to attend to incidents such as falls, some patients are waiting for hours to get medical support.
We are seeing patients being treated on gurneys in corridors, where they sometimes stay in excess of 20 hours.
Cleaning teams struggle to gain access for cleaning because of the clutter of beds leaving hygiene compromised and increasing the risk.
Cleaning operatives in hospitals are our front line of defence and last line of resistance keeping hospitals clean and hygienic to prevent the further spread of illness.
Without this invaluable, conscientious and diligent workforce battling the unseen menace of infection, the risks in hospitals would be significantly increased.
Cleaning staff make a major contribution to protecting the health of the nation, they are the guardians of high standards and without them, winter pressures in the NHS would be insurmountable.
I’d like to say a deep and sincere thank you to cleaning operatives, supervisors, managers and all those providing these vital cleaning services.
I hope these words demonstrate why it is so essential that the recommendations in the report by the sector’s All Party Parliamentary Group, entitled Embedding Effective Hygiene for a Resilient UK, are accepted in full by the Government.
Please back the campaign for cleaning and hygiene to be made a national priority. Scan the QR code to find out how to get involved or visit https://britishcleaningcouncil.org/2023/02/06/download-letter-here.
Achieving recognition for the vital work of cleaning staff and the importance of the cleaning and hygiene sector remains a key aim for the British Cleaning Council in 2024.
The CHSA’s Roadmap to Sustainability
By Lorcan Mekitarian, chair of the Cleaning & Hygiene Suppliers Association. (This column first appeared in Cleaning and Maintenance online).
The Cleaning & Hygiene Suppliers Association (CHSA) report on sustainability is designed to help buyers of cleaning and hygiene products select ethically and environmentally sustainable solutions.
The report compiles information from our members, who comprise manufacturers and distributors of cleaning and hygiene products. Manufacturing members include multinationals with a global footprint and major UK-based independent manufacturers. Distributor members span national networks to privately owned independent businesses.
The report compiled our members’ responses to three important and wide-ranging questions:
1. What are the major carbon-reduction initiatives and changes taking place in the industry?
2. What types of initiative or approach should be specified in tenders?
3. What should buyers be aware of or avoid and how do they identify greenwashing claims?
The Major Carbon-Reduction Initiatives
The focus of the major carbon reduction initiatives is the move from a linear mode of ‘take, make, use, throw’ to a circular economy of re-use, re-manufacture, repair and recycle. Our members highlighted their commitment to designing-in recyclability at the end of the product’s life cycle and using a high content of recycled material where possible. They are also minimising the use of raw materials by developing.
The two big areas of focus for transport and distribution are the vehicles themselves and delivery efficiency. Investment in expensive electric vehicles may be the attention-catching headline but members are getting important cumulative wins by improving delivery efficiency. They are investing in route planning software to reduce transport miles and working with customers to help them accept large, less frequent and less urgent deliveries.
In relation to corporate environmental impact, many manufacturing processes are energy intensive. To reduce emissions, our members are adopting renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power and investing in technologies and processes that improve energy efficiency. They are also making sure they take the simple steps, such as switching to LED lighting and online meetings, and using eco settings on all devices. Our members are also focusing on measurement – to reduce Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions, our members are making sure they understand their baseline.
Initiatives to Specify in Tenders
CHSA members are encouraging buyers to develop a consistent approach for responsible supplier assessment. The first step is to require a sustainability strategy, which includes a life cycle assessment of carbon emissions, quantified and measured independently where possible. To evaluate the strategy, CHSA members recommend buyers ask for information on the resources the organisation is committing to sustainability. It will indicate their seriousness. Seeking independent certifications is also important. For example FSC or PEFC address responsible forestry, sustainable sourcing and chain of custody. EcoVardis, CDP and Sedex are tools that monitor your supply chain’s sustainability. Finally, it’s important to instigate quality assurance checks post award of the tender. They should include site visits and relevant audits.
Identify and Avoid Greenwashing Claims
To avoid being caught out by greenwashing claims, buyers need to be informed. This means knowing about and understanding legislative developments. It also means understanding the truth of terms like ‘biodegradable’, ‘compostable’, ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘natural’. Buyers must also consider the whole lifecycle and instead of taking product and service sustainability claims at face value, buyers need to challenge them, asking for evidence. In particular, beware absolute claims. It is impossible to have, for example, zero environmental impact or be 100% sustainable and no plastic sack is made from 100% recycled material. Greenwashing claims also often focus on one aspect of the product’s lifecycle while ignoring others such as transport, disposal or the use of hazardous materials.
The full report as well as more information and resources are available on the CHSA website: https://chsa.co.uk/roadmap-to-sustainability/.