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Am J Infect Control. 2003 May;31(3):181-7.

Use of audit tools to evaluate the efficacy of cleaning systems in hospitals.

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School of Applied Sciences, University of Wales Institute, Cardiff, Llandaff Campus, United Kingdom.



Recent publicity has highlighted both the inadequacies of hospital cleaning and high levels of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections in UK hospitals. "Standards for Environmental Cleanliness" (SEC) was a checklist developed in April 1999 by the Infection Control Nurses Association and the Association of Domestic Managers to evaluate cleaning services regardless of who is the provider. More recently, the National Health Service plan (July 2000) was an attempt to generate a rapid improvement in the cleanliness and tidiness of hospitals via a National Health Service patient environment audit (PEA). On the basis of models used in the food industry to manage cleaning practices cost-effectively, a risk-based audit checklist incorporating rapid hygiene monitoring was developed to assess the adequacy of cleaning programs and standards in hospitals. This checklist (Audit for Cleaning Efficacy, or ACE) as well as the SEC and PEA approaches were applied at 4 hospitals, and environmental microbial surface counts were compared. SEC and PEA rely on visual assessment, whereas the ACE approach is more comprehensive and included more specific questions relating to the management and monitoring of cleaning as well as standards on the basis of rapid hygiene monitoring.


Two wards in each of the 4 hospitals were visited on 3 separate occasions immediately after cleaning was completed. Visual assessment, adenosine triphosphate bioluminescence, and microbiologic sampling of selected environmental sites were performed to evaluate the effectiveness of cleaning. The 3 audits were completed during the final hospital visit.


Visual assessment indicated that 90% of sites were satisfactory, whereas adenosine triphosphate bioluminescence showed that 100% and microbiologic sampling showed that 90% of sites did not meet benchmark values. There was no significant difference between the SEC and PEA audits (P =.311), which used visual assessment, and the results suggest that they both are similar in passing surfaces that have microbiologic benchmark values that are too high. However, the ACE audit showed a significant difference (P = <.001) in results compared with the SEC and the PEA audits and did not pass surfaces with microbiologic benchmark values that were too high. The ACE audit, which incorporates rapid hygiene testing, showed a much stronger association with the microbial counts; this was not apparent with the SEC and the PEA audits.


The data suggest that visual assessment is a poor indicator of cleaning efficacy and that the ACE audit gives a better assessment of cleaning programs compared with the other 2 audit methods in relation to microbial surface counts. It is recommended that hospital cleaning regimes be designed to ensure that surfaces are cleaned adequately and that efficacy is assessed with use of internal auditing and rapid hygiene testing.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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