Infection control in care homes

Care home staff member washing hands with a MediWash portable sink

The need for hand wash basins with running water

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, care home residents were at risk to the regular influenza and norovirus outbreaks with sharing air, space, food and equipment. The current situation has given even greater focus on protecting residents and staff.

The Department of Health guidelines on the prevention and control of infection in care homes, highlights the previously stated position:

“Hand hygiene is widely acknowledged to be the single most important activity that reduces the spread of infection. Yet evidence suggests that many care workers do not decontaminate their hands when required nor use the correct technique.”

“Hand hygiene should be performed immediately before and after every episode of direct person contact and after any activity or contact that could potentially result in hands becoming contaminated.

“Hand hygiene facilities that include, at a minimum, a hand wash basin with hot and cold water (preferably via a mixer tap), liquid soap and disposable paper towels, should be available and easily accessible. A lack of or inappropriate facilities should be brought to the attention of the registered provider or manager of the care home who has a duty of care to ensure that there are adequate facilities and materials available to prevent cross infection within the home.” 

These preventative steps are now extremely important as well as having a strategy to deal with residents that have been tested positive as detailed on the Gov.UK website.

Any resident presenting with symptoms of COVID-19 should be promptly isolated (if not already) and tested. This should be in a single room with a separate bathroom, where possible.

If the design and capacity of the care home and the number of residents involved is manageable, it’s preferable to isolate residents into separate floors or wings of the home. Residents in isolation should not attend communal areas, including shared lavatories and bathrooms. Symptom management measures should be taken to keep the resident as comfortable as possible. This may include medicines which will need to be prescribed and monitored by the resident’s GP.

Supporting isolated residents

Portable sinks can help control infection outbreaks by supporting isolated residents and providing back-up support for existing hand washing facilities as well as being used in rest or reception areas by visitors and staff. As they can be placed at point of need, they are ideal for residents who may have to be isolated or have restricted mobility, allowing them and staff access to warm water in their rooms.

They are also easy for less able residents to use as they are activated by a sensor and are safe to use as the warm water shuts off automatically after the cycle has completed. It also worth noting that as the sinks dispense warm water at a controlled temperature that is within the HSE guidelines, there is no risk of scalding.

Use of the sinks can allow zones to be set up, ensuring anyone passing through the zone has access to hand washing that must be completed prior to further entry into the next room or next part of the building.

A range of sinks to suit different locations

As pressure mounts on budgets, the use of high-quality portable sink units can assist by adding facilities without significant expenditure. They can allow short term expansion to cope with unexpected demand, convert non-plumbed areas for controlling infection outbreaks or for supporting areas, such as reception halls, that have no access to washrooms.

The range of sinks developed by Teal can cope with the requirements of different patient and residential care environments, all designed for ease of use.

Having portable sinks as part of the care package available in a care home, can offer reassurance to residents and family members that managers are thinking ahead and most importantly having a strategy to minimise the risks of infection to their residents.

They can potentially help support residents who may have to be isolated by giving support staff easy access to safe, temperature controlled warm water right where it is needed.

Washing can take place wherever its needed

They are cost-effective, they can be kept as flexible support equipment, ordered and on-hand to use when needed. Easy to set up and can be placed anywhere.
With staff moving from one care home site to another, the sinks can be positioned close to entrance areas allowing easy to use hand washing as they arrive and when they leave.

Just as importantly, they can provide an infection barrier for residents and visitors providing direct access to regular, soap and water hand washing, helping safeguard the health of everyone in the building.

Hand washing is essential says guidance as care home takes action against norovirus

Effective infection control in a care home environment

Teal portable handwashing sinks can be placed exactly where they are needed – with no plumbing required.

They can provide care environments with high quality, hygienic hot water hand washing facilities, to support areas of the building without plumbing or if the mains water supply is suspended for maintenance or refurbishment.

The units can provide back-up support for existing hand washing facilities, can be used in rest areas for residents or in reception hallways for visitors and staff. They are easy to use and as they can be placed at point of need are ideal for residents, who may have restricted mobility, allowing them to have access to warm water in their own rooms.

The unit shown at the top of the page is the MediWash – a robust, highly mobile unit which is ideal for hight traffic areas such as the main entrance to a facility.

Teal’s other care home hand wash units include the HandSpa as well as the portable Hygienius and Super Stallette – all of which can be positioned near any standard power socket. In addition, the go-anywhere WashStand can be wheeled to wherever it’s needed.