Infection, prevention, control: decontamination – why is it so important?

Clinical   kit pic

Our back to basics look at infection, prevention and control (IPC) continues this week with decontamination.

Decontamination is the general term used to describe the process of removing contaminants and uses a combination of cleaning, disinfection and sterilisation.

Cleaning is the first step in the process and can sometimes be the only decontamination method required for some items.

  • Cleaning is the process of physically removing dirt, grease and up to 80% of micro-organisms. This is performed using general purpose detergent and hot water.
  • Disinfection is the process of using heat or chemicals to reduce micro-organisms to a safe level, up to 99%. In EEAST the current disinfectant used is Actichlor, which is a chlorine based disinfectant that is mixed with cold water to the correct dilution level.
  • Sterilisation is a process which destroys all viable micro-organisms. Within EEAST any items which are required to be sterile come pre-sterilised and remain in their packaging until required for use. These items are all single-use and disposed of after use.

Decontamination is everyone’s responsibility and all colleagues are asked to familiarise themselves with the decontamination manual. Operational crews are ultimately responsible for ensuring that the ambulance, vehicle or equipment they are using is clean and safe for the task.

There are four levels of decontamination for operational patient-carrying vehicles within the Trust:

  • Between patients clean: Operational staff are responsible for cleaning the vehicle and equipment between each patient. This should include cleaning surfaces or medical equipment which has been used in the treatment of patients, and any spillages of blood or body fluids together with safely disposing consumable items.
  • Daily clean: Operational staff need to ensure the vehicle is cleaned daily. This clean may be carried out by vehicle cleaning operatives (VCOs) or ambulance fleet assistants (AFAs) where available.
  • Service clean: Operational managers need to make sure vehicles have a service clean every six weeks. This clean should ideally be carried out by VCOs or AFAs where available. This is a thorough clean of the vehicle, which has been stripped of all consumable items and medical equipment. The aim of a service clean is to ensure that a vehicle is comprehensively cleaned at regular intervals
  • Decontamination clean: In a few instances it will be necessary to undertake a more thorough clean of a vehicle to remove big spillages or potentially highly infectious microorganisms.

It is important that all medical devices be decontaminated before sending for repair. The decontamination process needs to be done and a faulty equipment tag completed. Medical devices that are not decontaminated or do not have the correct status declared on the faulty equipment tag will not be repaired.

Please refer to SOP MD01 repair of medical devices for more details. Further information regarding IPC processes can also be found within the Trust safe practice guidelines on East24.

Published 26th September, 2016

Leave a Comment
Name (required)
Email Address (required, never displayed)
Enter a message

(all comments are moderated - your submission will be posted on approval.)

This is a printable version of