Cleaning Hospital Beds: Time for a change?

As we know, COVID-19 has put a huge strain on hospital resources, especially with rising bed occupancy levels. Nuffield Trust reported that by 24 January 2021, critical care bed occupancy levels were at 148% relative to the number of available beds on the same day in January 2020.

Not only has increasing the number of beds created challenges with staffing shortage, but it has also made it harder to keep the hospital beds clean, increasing the threat of infection transmission.

Ensuring beds stay hygienic and fit for use is a huge task. But, we think there is a solution – the automated Innova Bed Washing System.

In this article, we will explain the importance of infection prevention, how hospital beds are currently cleaned, and how the Bed Washing System can optimise the cleaning process to reduce infection transmission in hospitals across the UK.

Why is infection prevention for hospital beds important?

Beds and mattresses are among the most common pieces of equipment found in any hospital. Every patient needs their own bed. They are also among the most difficult items to keep clean – anyone who has spent time working in healthcare can vouch for that!

Mattresses are in constant contact with the patient’s skin, which houses bacteria (some harmless, some less so). There is also the risk that a mattress can be exposed to bodily fluids due to open wounds or incontinence.

Plus, the bed itself is handled by multiple staff each day. From nurses adjusting positioning to porters transporting patients throughout the hospital, each person who comes into contact with a bed increases the risk of cross-contamination.

Even with strict handwashing procedures in place, beds and mattresses must be regularly cleaned.

300,000 patients a year develop healthcare-associated infections

With that in mind, it is a priority for everyone working in hospitals to keep on top of infection prevention.

NICE has estimated that 300,000 patients a year in England develop a healthcare-associated infection (HCAI). These figures only include NHS facilities – where HCAI was found to cost over £1 billion per year – so the true scale of the issue across the entire healthcare sector is likely to far exceed the initial estimate.

Patient in hospital bed

WHAT IS HCAI?

Healthcare-associated infection covers any infection that develops as a direct result of medical intervention, e.g. surgical treatment, or indirectly as a result of being in contact with a healthcare setting e.g. a hospital or care home.

Due to the prevalence and cost of HCAI, both to patient wellbeing and financially, hospitals work hard to comply with infection prevention policies.

Individual policies may vary slightly to suit the needs of a specific facility. However, all policies will include guidelines for maintenance of reusable equipment – including hospital beds and mattresses.

How are hospital beds cleaned? 

Currently, almost all hospital beds and mattresses in the UK are cleaned by hand.

This is because approximately, 98% UK hospital beds are non-washable (IPX4). They cannot be cleaned by automated systems using water and chemicals as these would damage electronic components.

Manual cleaning involves several lengthy processes, including dismantling the bed to wipe all headboards, siderails and other surfaces before carrying out a full mattress decontamination separately.

Electronic Bed

Recommended current practice for mattress decontamination is to first clean the surface in place with detergent and water, followed by rinsing. Staff must then use a chemical disinfectant at a pH approved by the manufacturer for the appropriate contact time, followed by further rinsing.

Usually, the contact time for a disinfectant is around 5 minutes. So, the whole process of stripping down a bed, cleaning it, disinfecting the mattress, drying it, and reassembling everything can take 15 minutes or more.

To find more information on this topic, read our full guide to How to decontaminate a mattress.

TIME FOR CHANGE?

The Coronavirus pandemic has shed new light on the need for tighter infection prevention, especially in relation to cleaning medical equipment.

Not only do the current processes take a lot of time, but there is also increased risk of cross-contamination, as staff come into direct contact with each bed when cleaning.

Continuing to rely on manual cleaning is both inefficient and higher risk for patients and staff. But what is the alternative?

The Bed Washing System 

It is time to fully automate the cleaning and disinfection of beds and mattresses across NHS and private hospitals in the UK.

In partnership with Dutch manufacturer, Weber Hospital Systems, we are launching the Innova Bed Washing System.

WHAT IS A BED WASHING SYSTEM?

The Bed Washing System is an automated washing system that will completely change how beds are cleaned in hospitals nationwide.

Uniquely, the system uses steam and precision robotics to provide thermal cleaning and disinfection.

There are several automated bed washing systems already available in the UK. However, they all rely on chemicals and water for cleaning. Therefore, this is the only system suitable for cleaning IPX4 beds with advanced electronics.

Able to wash, disinfect and dry beds and mattresses all in one cycle, the Bed Washing System is already in use in hospitals across Europe. We are now able to launch this innovative technology in UK!

HOW DOES IT WORK?

This is a very simple and efficient system. Using robotics and high temperature steam, chemical cleaning agents are unnecessary. Instead applying steam achieves thermal disinfection.

Every 6 minutes, the VDS can deliver a fully disinfected hospital bed and mattress ready for immediate use.

Here is a breakdown of how it works:

INPUT – The bed is scanned, identified, and checked. This prompts the Bed Washing System to start the correct tailor-made cleaning programme for that bed.

Thanks to the integrated track & trace system, it also checks whether the bed is due for maintenance or inspection at the same time!

CLEANING – The mattress is lifted off the bed so both can be individually cleaned. With the help of precision robots, all the components of the bed and mattress are cleaned using steam at >90°C. Cleaning takes place with the help of a tailor-made programme, so that every surface is cleaned in the correct manner.

DRYING – The mattress is lowered back onto the bed. Both are then rapidly dried using forced ventilation and compressed air.

OUTPUT As soon as the cycle is complete, the bed can immediately be made up and used.

Weber Process Photo

1 – Input Unit

2 – Bed Scanning

3 – Mattress Lifting (Lift Up)

4 – Robot Cleaning

5 – Mattress Cleaning

6 – Mattress Lift (Return)

7 – Output Unit

HOW IS IT BETTER THAN MANUAL CLEANING?

With the Bed Washing System, you get an automated and validated cleaning and disinfection system that takes hygiene procedures to the next level.

There are three key benefits for hospitals:

  • Lower risk of HCAIs

Infection transmission is a constant threat in hospitals. As we have seen, cleaning beds and mattresses by hand brings potential risks of cross-contamination.

The Bed Washing System reduces the human contact required for cleaning. In having an automated system, cleanliness levels are validated by a minimum log> 5 reduction of micro-organisms. This essentially means that if a surface has 100,000 pathogenic microbes on it, a 5-log reduction would reduce the number of micro-organisms to one.

  • Save time and staff resources

As we have already mentioned, Bed Washing System is unique in that it doesn’t require use of chemical cleaning agents. This enables it to clean all hospital beds, including the standard IPX4 beds used in 98% of hospitals in the UK.

Having a single system to clean all beds is more efficient. Less time is spent on upfront cleaning training. Plus, each individual bed is ready in 6 minutes rather than 15 minutes+!

As all mattress handling is automated, there is no physical burden on staff, freeing up time and energy to focus on other aspects of patient care.

  • Reduce costs

Of course, reducing the number of HCAIs and freeing up staff time will save hospitals millions over the years.

But the Bed Washing System also provides some impressive direct savings in cleaning costs.

The system has the lowest energy and water consumption in the market! Hospitals can also reduce their spend on chemical cleaning agents.

Save 23% each month

Our research has shown that in a typical 600-bed hospital, it costs £30.99 per bed per month to clean them manually. With the Bed Washing System, that number drops to £23.87. That’s a saving of 23% per month!

Save £616,000 over 10-years

If you pull together all the savings that the Bed Washing System can provide in different areas in a 600-bed hospital, the savings could be as much as £616k over 10 years!

Not bad at all when that figure is before we consider the savings associated with reducing the number of infections transmitted within the hospital.

Summary

As approximately 98% of UK hospital beds are non-washable (IPX4), cleaning hospital beds by hand has been the norm. However, as shown in this article, the current system is inefficient and actually poses a higher risk for patients and staff with regards to HCAIs.

With the Bed Washing System, those problems are easily solved. Not only does it reduce bacteria living on a surface by 99%, it is by far a more efficient and cost-effective system, saving precious time for staff to concentrate on patient-centred care.

If you would like to find out more about how it works and what we offer receive, be sure to get in touch: