What makes healthcare equipment good for infection prevention?

From TVNs to procurement officers, anyone who works in the healthcare sector will be aware of the importance of infection prevention. It plays a vital role in helping regulate and control the spread of bugs in healthcare environments like hospitals, hospices, and care homes.

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.

However, by simply using equipment that has been specifically designed and manufactured to be easy to clean, it makes reducing the spread of bacteria and infections much easier.

We’ve taken a look at how certain materials, designs, cleaning and training can help prevent the spread of infection.

1) MATERIALS

In order for materials to offer effective infection prevention, they need to be easy to clean, durable, and waterproof.

This is to keep mattresses, seating and cushioning as protected as possible from any fluid ingress or bacterial growth. Vinyl is a particularly robust material that is waterproof and hard-wearing.

While soft fabrics are prone to gathering bacteria, vinyl can be wiped down and it doesn’t hold as much dust or bacteria.

That is why the Arene Rise and Recline Chairs are perfect for hospices!

They use vinyl as a material to provide a tough exterior to the seat, protecting it from any tears or leaks.

Arene Chair Infection Prevention

You can find more about materials for healthcare equipment in our ‘Seat Fabrics for Infection Control’ blog.

Antimicrobial surfaces

Using specialised antimicrobial materials in healthcare equipment is now a must.

They have been designed and manufactured specially to inhibit the growth of microorganisms that are in contact with the surface.

As a result, these materials are a great way of preventing bacteria from festering on equipment, and therefore reducing the risk of equipment carrying infectious microorganisms.

For instance, some patients or residents may spend a lot of time in bed, or indeed they may be bedbound altogether. By having a mattress with an antimicrobial cover, healthcare environments are reducing the chance of cross-infection between users or between the carer and individual.

That is why every mattress in the Somlent range is covered with a polyurethane film coating that is antimicrobial, and they’re machine washable at 60°C.

To learn more about our healthcare equipment, you can download our free brochure that highlights all the different items that we currently provide:

Ultrasonic Welded Seams

Traditional sewn seams are a great spot for infection to fester as the stitches themselves, and the holes they create in the fabric, are very difficult to clean.

That is why we recommend and use ultrasonic welding on our mattresses.

Carried out in a sterile environment, it uses high-frequency vibrations to melt or weld surfaces together.

Here are the key benefits:

  • From hospital gowns to mattress covers, welded seams are used to provide a strong bond between different materials that is less likely to tear.
  • No stitches or holes that could possibly harbour bacteria and become contaminated.
  • Much quicker than normal adhesives or stitching, and it doesn’t take much drying time.

2)  DESIGN

According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), there is a 6.4% chance of getting an infection while in hospital in England.

A Design Council case study found that levels of cross infection dropped when equipment had been specifically designed and manufactured to be easy to clean.

That is why it is so important that healthcare equipment is designed with the goal of minimising the spread of bacteria.

Patient Hoisting

Although it may not be the first thing you think of, ceiling hoist tracking is a common place for bacteria to grow and can easily be contaminated if not cleaned on a regular basis.

Traditional tracking hangs from the ceiling, leaving space for dust to settle on the top of the rail.

However, with innovative design in the form of inset tracking, this problem can easily be solved. Inset tracking is built into the ceiling meaning that the risk of contamination is significantly reduced.

There is no space for dust to sit on top, and it doesn’t need cleaning as often; it’s win-win situation!

Another option would be the Integralift hidden hoist system.

This handy hoisting system can be manufactured as a complete bed head unit, and the materials can include HPL (high pressure laminate), which is very easy to clean.

A much more subtle system than a standard hoist, the Integralift is perfect for hospices – just ask St Teresa’s Hospice!

Stainless Steel

Another piece of healthcare equipment that can benefit from infection prevention design is hydrotherapy pools.

Just like a standard swimming pool, most hydrotherapy pools are tiled, making them a magnet for microorganisms. Infections can take hold of the grouted gaps between tiles, which is difficult and expensive to clean.

Instead of using tiles, stainless steel is a robust, easily-cleaned material that boasts excellent strength and sterility.

Not only is it cheaper to build, install, and maintain, it also makes the pool more aesthetically pleasing.

Our stainless steel hydrotherapy pools are built using a unique method that combines mechanical anchorages and cold welding. It ensures the sheets of steel are unperforated, which is a common problem with traditional welding techniques, and significantly reduces the chance of any material degradation or holes opening up.

Learn more about how stainless steel compares to concrete in our blog:

3)  CLEANING

We have seen how important it is to have equipment that is easy to clean, with innovative design helping reduce infection transmission.

However, what about equipment that isn’t easy to clean?

Hospital beds and mattresses are among the most common pieces of equipment found in any hospital, but are also among the most difficult items to keep clean.

From nurses adjusting positioning to porters transporting patients throughout the hospital, beds are handled by multiple staff each day, increasing the risk of cross-contamination.

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.

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

Bed Washing System

Bed Washer is effective for infection prevention

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

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

Not only is this time-consuming, there is also a risk of cross-contamination, as staff come into direct contact with each bed when cleaning.

However, the Innova Bed Washing System is about to change all that!

Using steam and precision robotics, the Bed Washing System is unique in that it doesn’t use chemicals for thermal cleaning and disinfection. As a result, it the only system in the UK that is suitable for cleaning IPX4 beds with advanced electronics.

Whilst cleaning beds by hand reduces micro-organisms by 35%, the Bed Washing System is proven to reduce bacteria by up to 99%, ensuring a bed and mattress is washed, dried and ready for patient use in 6 minutes.

To learn more about this innovative technology, take a look at the following blog:

4)   TRAINING

Designing and building care environments can be tricky, especially when it comes to thinking about infection prevention strategies.

By maintaining good levels of infection prevention within your healthcare equipment, it will help you save money in the long-run and provide a better standard of care.

Using the right materials and designing equipment with infection prevention in mind can help achieve that, but there is also another factor to consider – training.

Training for infection prevention

Product Training

From training on hoisting systems to pressure care mattresses, there are a wide range of face-to-face and online courses available to boost your understanding about healthcare equipment.

These sessions can help you choose the best products to minimise infection transmission as well as learn about the most effective cleaning methods.

In addition to attending training courses, you can also find lots of information about this topic in various publications.

To help make specification and complying to standards for infection prevention easier, we have dozens of e-books and brochures that are available to download for free!

View our resource library to find out more.

BOOK A CPD TODAY!

Whether you are a carer or an architect, you can always broaden your knowledge on infection prevention in healthcare by taking part in a CPD (Continuing Professional Development) course.

From creating design-led care environments to incorporating hydrotherapy pools, there are a vast array of courses that you can take part in.

Available online or in-person, we cover a range of topics surrounding healthcare equipment and care facility design, including the latest regulations and guidelines for infection prevention.

If you would like to request a CPD session on a certain topic, let us know!