Medical staff risk spreading infections if they wash their uniforms at home

According to research, nurses and other medical staff risk spreading hospital-acquired infections – such as MRSA – because they are washing their uniforms at home in water that is not hot enough to kill off certain bacteria.

Researches from De Montford University, in Leicester, are calling for national guidelines to give clear rules on washing clinical uniforms. The researchers have even recommended that uniforms should be washed within the hospitals – and not at home.

In a survey of 265 staff from four east Midland hospitals, it was found that 49 per cent were not using hot enough water to wash their uniforms. A minimum temperature of 60C is recommended to kill most bacteria.

It was also found that some 40 per cent were washing their uniforms in the same loads as their casual clothes. A quarter of the staff surveyed admitted that they did not wash their uniforms after every shift, which could risk contaminated clothing making it back into the hospital environment.

All hospitals have strict hygiene controls to ensure that infections are stopped from spread but inevitably with NHS cost cutting there can be lapses. It is common for staff to wash their uniforms at home because it reduces NHS costs and it is more convenient for nurses and medical professionals.

It is often casual practices, like the washing of nurses and medical uniforms at home, which breach hygiene controls in place within healthcare facilities and risk patient safety. It is quite common for people to develop an infection such as MRSA or C Difficile as a result of medical negligence while in hospital.

Hospital-acquired infections cost the NHS more than £1 billion a year. The consequences of a patient contracting an infection can be devastating and even fatal, especially if the patient in very young and old or has a weakened immune system. There is increasing concerns regarding antibiotic-resistant infections, which are extremely difficult to treat. Avoiding the spread of such infections in the first place is vital.

Andrew Taylor, Clinical Negligence specialist and a partner at Birchall Blackburn Law, says: “With all the washing powder brands promoting environmental and energy saving messages about washing clothes at 30 or 40 degrees, it makes sense that nurses and other medical professionals don’t have their water hot enough.

“Medical uniforms should be washed to the same high hygiene standards as hospital bed sheets and operating theatre linen to make sure patients and staff are protected. At the very least there should be a nationwide standard and guidelines for washing hospital uniforms.

“At the moment we’re seeing a lot of people coming to us for legal advice after contracting serious infections while being treated in hospital. We have recently successfully recovered damages for a case of MRSA at a Manchester hospital, and we’re currently dealing with two on-going cases, involving Clostridium Difficile and Necrotising Fasciitis.”

Contracting an infection while in hospital can be very frightening and the hospital should act quickly to correctly treat the condition. There should not be any delays in recognising or treating the infection. The right antibiotics should be used, the wound carefully cared for and progress should be regular monitored by the hospital staff. It is a failure of care if the infection is not properly treated like this.

If you have suffered a hospital infection and feel that it was not properly treated, you may be entitled to compensation. Our compassionate team of Clinical Negligence experts understand the worry and pain caused by medical mishaps. Please get in touch with us on 0800 614 722 or 0333 321 2192 from a mobile.