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Help, I'm going dust crazy

Do not mention dust to me or I will cry with frustration! In fact I need to write this blog to offload my "dust" dilemma - and also to seek your opinions as to whether I've got it out of proportion.

This frustration all started with some work I've been doing on the prevention of healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs). In the PCT where I work we are intending to develop infection control champions in every GP practice, dental surgery and registered nursing home. These will be nurses who will become "in-house" experts and establish sound infection control standards, will cascade training to all staff in their organisation and ensure a robust domestic cleaning regime is in place.

In planning this project there has been a lot of talk about cleaning of the environment. And this is especially true of dusting - what to dust, how to dust, what to dust with, how often to dust? Nurses from the relevant establishments repeatedly report their frustration about standards of cleaning and their impotence to make a difference - unless they do the cleaning themselves! And some have resorted to doing just that!

The second irritation about dust came about during regular visits to surgeries. In clinical rooms, treatment rooms, consulting rooms - call them what you like - I have seen levels of dust that are unacceptable in a healthcare environment. In these rooms clinical procedures take place: cytology sampling, blood testing, cautery, blood sampling, wounds are inspected, ears, eyes and noses are examined and patients have been known to present samples of their body fluids for inspection. I acknowledge that some of the environments are difficult to keep dust-free; carpets, curtains, pillows and modesty blankets trap dust and electronic computers and screens actually attract dust particles like a magnet. But should such rooms have soft furnishings? National infection control guidance suggests not.

I'm getting bored with reiterating the evidence that dust harbours infectious organisms. And anyway, I think patients would not expect to see dust in their surgery, health centre or dental surgery.

Why are some clinicians prepared to work in a dusty environment? Don't they see or have they got used to the dust in a room they use everyday? Do I see my dust at home? Well, I do (especially now it's autumn and the sun is at a lower angle on the horizon), and I get this overwhelming urge to get out the duster.

Yet many clinicians tell me they are frustrated with the standard of cleaning in their workplace. Managers report that "you can't get a decent, committed cleaner these days". Last week I was shocked when I contacted some high street cleaning companies who indicated that they have no special procedures for a cleaning job in a clinical environment - they use the same methods they use in accountancy offices and retail shops.

Well, I think I've got part of the answer where dust is concerned! It's something I, and many of you, will recognise as core to nurse training - damp dusting! Remember damp dusting the patient's locker and bed table? It's my belief, based on anecdotal evidence, that it's not used much these days. Yes a moistened duster traps the dust, avoids dust resettling, and is oh so satisfying as you rinse it out and see the cloudy dust particles go down the drain.

Am I sad, sensible, or just misguided? What is your cleaning bugbear?

Actually, come to think of it - I do feel better for getting this off my chest!

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Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)

"I work in a medical centre which was rebuilt from scratch two years ago. After much moaning and groaning about possible cross-infection risk I have managed to get the carpets on the nurse consulting room floors changed to lino. Hooray! Also, talking of dust, does anyone else worry about the amount of junk the doctors seem to accumulate in their rooms (getting covered in dust) preventing the housekeeper from properly cleaning? I had to work in a GP room today as my computer had broken and I could hardly move for the bits of paper, notes awaiting action etc etc! I bet the bits at the bottom hadn't been seen since the day we moved in! Very bad feng shui! - Lisa, Brighton

"I cannot believe other people are having the same problem. I am a practice nurse employed by GPs. They have employed two caretakers to do paint/odd jobs etc and clean with no training. They seem to clean the doctors' rooms but nowhere else. Our rooms are filthy. The dust is disgraceful - curtains, blinds and ceiling fans are never cleaned and I don't think they have heard of skirting boards. The district nurses also use our building. They have complained. The nurses complained in our meeting with the practice manager, and everything was minuted apart from our complaints about the caretakers. If we complain to the senior partner, our room will be superficially cleaned once but never again.They have no concept of health and safety, with loose wires or equipment left on the floor with patients walking through the corridor. I know of the high risk of infection but do not know what else to do" - Name and address supplied