Raising standards in decontamination

CSJ spoke to the new chair of the Institute of Decontamination Sciences (IDSc), Trevor Garcia, about the organisation’s direction for the future, its ambitions to drive standards in the sector, and the need for culture change in decontamination science. He believes there is a need to ‘get back to basics’.

Challenges around decontamination persist within the health service – as the findings of a major national investigation by the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) clearly demonstrated, last year. The need for a specialist body, focused on standards and education is as pertinent today as it was when the Institute of Decontamination Sciences (IDSc) was first initiated. 

Today, the routine undertaking of disinfection, sterilisation and decontamination of reusable medical devices by trained professionals in dedicated controlled environments is an essential measure that manages the risks associated with healthcare-associated infections (HCAI) and ensures the safety of patients and staff. Yet prior to the late 1950s, healthcare facilities in the UK did not have central sterile services departments (CSSDs). 

While CSSDs had been successfully pioneered by the British Army at home and abroad, it wasn’t until the publication of two key Nuffield Trust reports in the late 1950s1-2 that the concept of CSSDs was put forward as a necessary requirement on a national scale. The Nuffield Trust’s study of sterile supply arrangements in a number of hospitals highlighted the full extent of the challenges – including open windows in decontamination facilities allowing dust to ingress, extreme build-up of scale on stainless steel from the use of hard water in sterilisers, and the cleaning of instruments by simply washing devices under a tap. The findings acted as a catalyst to driving improvement in decontamination practice.2

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