The benefits of portable handwash stations in a medical environment
Chris Whieldon, sales director of Teal Patents Ltd, discusses how the use of portable sinks has helped the NHS control infection outbreaks and support facilities maintenance.
We are now coming to the end of what has been widely recognised as the peak in seasonal illnesses that include the old enemy influenza and the now frequently occurring norovirus. The impact on the general population can be severe, particularly for the elderly and every year there appears to be more hospital ward closures as a result of infection spreading and hospitals take action to stop visitors.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Worldwide quoted some alarming statistics.
“Worldwide, about one out of every five cases of acute gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach or intestines) that leads to diarrhoea and vomiting is caused by norovirus. Norovirus causes 685 million cases of acute gastroenteritis, making it the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis worldwide.” ¹
Here in the UK hospital wards and school closures have now become a regular response and from figures from Public Health England in 2019 the number of cases showed an increase of 28% on the previous year.
Handwashing with soap and water
Nick Phin, National Infection Service Deputy Director at Public Health England, said:
“Cases of norovirus are at higher levels than we would expect to see at this time of year, although this is not unprecedented. Practising good hygiene is one of the best ways to protect against norovirus. This includes thorough hand washing with soap and warm water after using the toilet and before eating or preparing food.
“We advise people not to visit GP surgeries and hospitals with symptoms. However, if they are concerned, they should contact NHS 111 or talk to their GP by phone.
“Norovirus is one of the most common stomach bugs in the UK. It’s also called the winter vomiting bug because it’s more common in winter, although it can be caught at any time of the year.
“Infections rarely require medical treatment and most people will recover from it within a few days. It is, however, highly contagious, and is easily passed on at home, at hospital, or in the local community, and those who have been infected remain carriers for some time.
It is therefore important that those who have experienced symptoms or have been in contact with friends or family who have recently had norovirus, limit their contact with young children, elderly friends and relatives or those with pre-existing medical conditions.” ²
Clearly this has been a huge annual challenge for the NHS, not only to keep wards open but to make sure that infection outbreaks do not get into the building in the first place.
Use of portable hand wash units
Some hospitals have recognised the need by adding to their existing hand washing facilities during periods of high occurrence of influenza and norovirus. The tactical use of portable sinks is now becoming accepted as a simple and easy to use solution to ensure hand washing is carried out by staff and for visitors.
The sinks are stand-alone and can be placed exactly where needed, totally independent of any plumbing that exists in the building or room. They are supplied with their own water containers and separate waste containers that are housed inside the unit.
Setting up the sink is also straight forward easy; it can be simply plugged into a normal 13-amp socket and the unit produces a carefully controlled ten second flow of warm water. This delivers the perfect amount of water for a high-quality hand wash – without any of it being wasted.
The energy use is therefore low, the built-in water heaters use less than 20% of the energy needed for any other type of system, with the water being heated to a comfortable temperature. No heat is wasted by having to mix hot and cold water – and there is no heat loss from storage tanks, pipework, taps or fittings
This can allow isolation rooms, that may have limited plumbing, to have their own sink away from other patients.
They can also be used to act as a barrier, placed strategically, to ensure all staff and possibly visitors wash their hands before crossing into the area at more risk.
Flexibility and a hire solution
This flexibility also extends to the supply of the sinks. They can be purchased, then activated whenever needed by the hospital, or they can be supplied as part of the ‘Teal Task Force’ hire service.
The use of this hire service has grown significantly over the last two-three years as hospitals recognise the advantages of not adding unplanned items to their capital expenditure.
The ‘Mediwash’ has been one of the most popular sinks supplied also includes an automatic sensor, that starts a pre-programmed hand wash cycle when hands are placed within range, supported by onscreen instructions that direct the user to follow ‘The NHS hand washing instructions’ for effective hand washing (see below).
- Centers for Disease and Control
National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Division of Viral Diseases June 1, 2018
- NHS England – News 5 December 2019
Nick Phin, National Infection Service Deputy Director at Public Health England
Teal Task Force: quickly set up hand wash units for pods when coronavirus is suspected
The Teal Task Force is a unique fast response service available in the UK to deliver high quality hot water hand washing facilities on a next working day basis.
Fast delivery and setup – every Hygienius MediWash is sited and set up by trained TEAL Task Force staff. Each unit is delivered complete with a generous supply of liquid soap and paper towels.