An analysis of English NHS hospitals suggests that employing private as opposed to in-house cleaners is a false economy. While it may reduce costs, it could also raise risk of infection by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a superbug responsible for life-threatening infections that are hard to treat.
There is a view that outsourcing hospital cleaning leads to lower standards of hygiene and increased rates of hospital-acquired MRSA and other superbug infection.
In the UK, the NHS in England has – partly in an effort to reduce costs – made extensive use of outsourced cleaning. However, health services in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales rejected this option. Now, in a study published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, researchers examine the question of whether contracting out cleaning services in English NHS hospitals is linked to a higher risk of hospital-acquired MRSA infection and saves money.
Since 2005, NHS Trusts (the legal authorities that run one or more hospitals) have had to regularly report incidences of MRSA.
The analysis also shows that hiring private cleaners was less costly – excluding the extra cost of treating hospital-acquired infection – than employing in-house cleaners. Trusts that outsourced cleaning services saved around £236 per bed per year compared with those that employed in-house cleaners.
It is a tempting set of data, convincingly presented by the authors.
How that might impact on matters of waste management is presently unanswered. However, our own observations leave no doubt that safety standards and performance when handling healthcare and other wastes in hospitals are low. There is no evidence that there are differences between those who have in-house versus outsourced support services. Perhaps this is something to consider?
Blenkharn Environmental, clinical waste, clinical waste discussion forum, clinical waste disposal, environment, health and safety, healthcare waste, infection, regulation, waste management, MRSA, outsourcing, cleaning, support services, infection rates