IDSc 2023: driving high standards in decontamination

Taking place at the Hilton Metropole, Birmingham, the IDSc annual conference provided an update on training and competency within the decontamination sector. As part of the commitment to driving improvement and ensuring patient safety, the IDSc has been working hard to address the recommendations of a recent report by the Health Services Safety Investigations Body (HSSIB) on the decontamination of surgical instruments.

The safety investigation highlighted an incident in which an instrument used in theatre was found to be contaminated, and ‘black stuff’ entered the surgical site – posing a potential risk to the patient. This was subsequently found to be dried blood and the instrument had not been properly reprocessed. 

Trevor Garcia, IDSc’s National Chairman, and IDSc’s Director of Education, Helen Campbell, explained that IDSc was contacted by NHSE to develop a ‘technical bulletin’ to address the Health Services Safety Investigations Body's recommendations R2022/195 and R2022/194.

For R2022/195, HSSIB recommends that “NHS England and NHS Improvement develops a competency framework, stating skills, qualifications and professional registration as required for all sterile services staff and includes it in Health Technical Memorandum 01-01.”  

For R2022/194, HSSIB recommends that “NHS England and NHS Improvement amends HTM 01-01 to define ‘top management’ and its commitment to quality, and that external independent audits are reported directly to the responsible executive director in a Trust who is accountable for the service, not just the certified department.” 

The Technical Bulletin will cover current legislation and guidance, training and competency, organisational structure, job descriptions and job profiles, and the requirements for decontamination staff, including: experience, skills, qualifications and registration. Now in its first draft, the bulletin is due for circulation to stakeholders, and publication in 2024. 

Among the many other key topics addressed by the conference programme included: the need to drive improvements in sustainability, calls to attract 'fresh blood' into the profession, the need for decontamination personnel to be registered, the benefits of centralising endoscopy, the significance of endoscopy washer disinfector rinse water, the role of artificial intelligence in decontamination processes, and the challenges around launching innovative processes and equipment. 

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