Hospitals and health centres 'a breeding ground' for airborne infections, warns industry organisation
The Building & Engineering Services Association (B&ES) claims hospitals and other healthcare facilities are putting patients at risk of airborne infections transmitted via poorly-maintained ventilation and air conditioning systems.
Roderick Pettigrew, chief executive of B&ES, said: “A large body of research has established a clear link between poorly-maintained ventilation ductwork and the spread of airborne infections. Vulnerable patients, whose immunity is already reduced, are being put at particular risk by overlooking ventilation systems when planning preventative maintenance regimes.
He added that vigilance against the threat of cross-contamination is even more urgent these days as existing buildings are being made more airtight by building owners trying to reduce their energy costs by improving insulation, and new buildings have to comply with the much tighter energy and building efficiency requirements of Part L of the Building Regulations.
A combination of good practice, common sense and not avoiding the issue can help building operators to prevent even the very worst consequences
“Rising temperatures and increased relative humidity are ideal breeding grounds for bacterial spores that can be distributed around wards and other occupied areas through the ventilation and air conditioning systems,” he said. “Bacterial spores in ductwork can often cause outbreaks of MRSA and other serious infections in hospitals and clinics.
“Inadequate maintenance regimes and protocols mean air extract and supply grilles, ductwork, air handling units, extract fans and discharge points are becoming more prone to contamination that increases the risk for patients and other building users.”
And he advises: “A combination of good practice, common sense and not avoiding the issue can help building operators to prevent even the very worst consequences. The key points are that it is never too late to implement a cleaning regime and that properly-cleaned ventilation costs less to run than poorly-maintained systems.”
The B&ES newly-published Guide to Good Practice (TR/19) Internal Cleanliness of Ventilation Systems provides details of how to measure system cleanliness and make systems safe for use.