Proper Storage of Clean Supplies in Hospitals

Proper Storage of Clean Supplies in Hospitals
1 November 2022

Proper Storage of Clean Supplies in Hospitals

How much do you know about the safe and proper storage of clean supplies in hospitals? It might seem obvious, but a lot of thought, planning and management needs to go into ensuring this part of the healthcare world is done properly to ensure the safety and health of patients, staff and visitors in all healthcare environments.

Most hospitals will operate with a central supply area inside the building or situated in a warehouse nearby. This supply area will likely house a wide range of clean medical supplies, including first aid and wound care products, personal protective equipment, advanced life support equipment, intravenous solutions, pharmaceuticals, and much more. 

Hospital layouts and practical requirements can vary; however, the NHS advises that “the use of a central clean supply room and dispersed medicine store/preparation rooms results in more efficient stocking of supplies”. This, and the fact that effective treatment relies on quick, easy access to clean medical supplies, most hospitals designate clean supply store rooms on each floor or in each ward. Maintaining cleanliness and safety in these clean supply storage areas is crucial to breaking the chain of infection and protecting the quality of patient care.

nurse taking care of patient in hospital bed

This article is a guide for healthcare professionals, hospital managers, and clinical staff through the essentials of appropriate, safe, and proper storage of clean supplies in hospitals in the UK. We will discuss the importance of storage in relation to infection control in healthcare environments and the risks associated with improper hospital supply storage. We will offer expert guidance on how best to store clean hospital supplies, as well as hospital cleaning supplies, in accordance with UK Health and Safety requirements, NHS infection control standards, Health Technical Memoranda, and widely adopted best practices. 

Contents:

  1. Organise the Area Well
  2. Keep Unauthorised People Out
  3. Use Sensible Storage Solutions for Easy Access and Protection
  4. Use Hygienic, Cleanable Surfaces and Safe, Good-Sized Structures
  5. Don’t use fans, humidifiers or heaters in Clean Supplies Area
  6. Unpack Clean Supplies Outside of the Clean Supplies Area
  7. Move Clean Supplies Around The Hospital Safely

The Importance of Proper Storage of Clean Supplies in Hospitals: Essential to Infection Control and Preventing HCAIs

For optimal safety in hospitals, all areas must be kept clean at all times. When the hygienic controls of healthcare environments are compromised, infection control failures could lead to the outbreak of infection among patients, staff, and visitors. Along with a wide range of measures that UK hospitals take to minimise the risk of infection, safe and effective storage of clean supplies in hospitals and strict management of sterile equipment and disposables is vital to patient safety.

hospital cleaning trolley being pushed by nurses

Hospital staff need to be confident that the supplies they collect or receive from the hospital’s storage facilities are clean, fit for purpose, and safe to use. In the event that clean and sterile hospital supplies have been compromised and contaminated, the risk of transmitting infectious pathogens to patients is dramatically increased, and the threat of an outbreak of otherwise avoidable Healthcare Associated Infections (HCAIs) is prevalent.

HCAIs pose a serious threat to patients, staff, and visitor safety and can develop as a result of medical interventions such as surgical treatment, routine procedures, or simply from coming into contact with a healthcare setting in general. The World Health Organisation describes the impact of HCAIs on patient lives as “incalculable” as they present a significant risk to vulnerable patients and increase mortality rates. HCAIs can also incur substantial costs to the NHS every year, as well as healthcare providers around the world. For this reason, infection prevention and control is a key priority for the NHS and all healthcare staff.

hospital patient receiving treatment from a staff member wearing PPE

Ensuring that sterile hospital supplies remain clean up until the point of use is an essential standard that needs to be strictly upheld in order to reduce the risk of infecting a vulnerable patient with contaminated equipment. Safe, well-managed storage of clean supplies in hospitals must be taken seriously.

Breaking the Chain of Infection

Preventing the spread of infection and minimising the risk of HCAIs is vital to ensuring patient and staff safety in all healthcare environments. Infection can be prevented by breaking the Chain of Infection, which is broken down below.

The Infectious Agent: 

An agent, pathogen, or microorganism which has the ability to cause disease.

The Reservoir: 

The source of infection or area in which the microorganism can live, grow, and thrive. E.g. a person, an animal, a surface, an object (including medical supplies or equipment), food, or water.

The Portal of Exit (from the reservoir): 

This is the way that the microorganism leaves the reservoir. E.g. An infected person coughing and sneezing, or their vomit or faeces transmitting harmful microorganisms and disease.

The Mode of Transmission: 

How microorganisms are transmitted from one object, person, or place to another. E.g. Through the air, via a person’s hands, an object, or contact with bodily fluid.

The Portal of Entry: 

How the infection enters another person. E.g. Being breathed in, being swallowed, entering via a wound, or through medical equipment such as a urinary catheter.

The Susceptible Host:

The person who is vulnerable to infection.

The Chain of Infection

Steroplast has over 25 years of experience supplying the healthcare industry. We are trusted and endorsed by the NHS for our high-quality products and hospital equipment. We’re relied on by UK hospitals to contribute to hygiene and safety measures in clinical environments. Take a look through our premium infection control range to see how we could support you in breaking the chain of infection in your hospital.

Best Practice for a Clean Supply Room: The Essentials

Take note of these essential tips for managing and maintaining a safe environment for the storage of clean supplies in hospitals. We will cover the specifics in more detail further down.

  • Allocate enough space for your supplies

The NHS’ health building notes stipulate that: 

It has been calculated that a reasonable provision for four 24-bed wards would be one 32 m2 clean supply room plus four 8 m2 medicine store/ preparation rooms. This equates, in terms of space requirements, to one 16 m2 clean utility room per ward, which is generally accepted to be an adequate level of provision

  • Good hand hygiene

Ensure your hands are cleaned thoroughly before entering the clean supply room, using antibacterial handwash, or hand sanitiser. Do not wear gloves when accessing clean supplies unless unavoidable. 

nurse washing hands to operation using correct technique for cleanliness
  • Follow suppliers’ storage recommendations

Take note of recommendations on product packaging with regards to storage temperature and whether the supplies should be kept out of the light, or in a dry area, etc.

  • Stock rotation

Assess product expiry dates and manage stock rotation as routine procedure.

Doctor looking for medical supplies
  • Store supplies responsibly 

Clean and sterile supplies should not be stored in corridors, on window sills, on floors, or under sinks. But rather in enclosed, sheltered, hygienic spaces.

Motion Blur Shot Of Medical Staff Wearing Scrubs In Busy Hospital Corridor
  • Take extra care with sterile supplies 

Store all sterile supplies and equipment in designated, clearly labelled areas separate from other areas and supplies. Protect from dust, light, moisture (acceptable humidity range is 30-60%) and temperature (acceptable range 18-23 C for ambient products).

Professional surgery, sterile surgeon instrument
  • Maintain the packaging of sterile supplies

Do not use sterile products if the packaging has been compromised.

Boxes with Covid-19 PCR kit in hospital warehouse, conceptual image
  • Only open packaging at the point of use. 

To do this you need to:

  • Maintain the integrity of packaging while storing and transporting supplies.
  • Handle, transport and store sterile supplies separate from dirty or used supplies.
  • Keep all supplies in labelled, cleanable, enclosed or covered containers.
  • Avoid or minimise storage of supplies in care areas or patient rooms (we recommend setting maximum supply levels for each area.)

How should clean supplies in hospitals be managed?

Managing the inventory and storage of clean supplies in hospitals is an essential part of controlling the levels required for patient care. The hygiene and integrity of clean and sterile supplies is essential to providing safe, consistent patient care. There are countless essential clean hospital supplies, including needles and syringes, personal protective equipment, dressings and bandages, eye and wound wash solutions, and many more.

pharmacist sorting medications in storage room

Here are our top tips for clean supply inventory management:

  • Rotate supplies following the First in, First Out (FIFO) method.
  • Do not overstock your clean supply room.
  • Store ONLY clean and sterile supplies in the clean supply storage area. Enforce this with regular monitoring, direct supervision, staff training, and clear signage.
  • Assess supplies that aren’t used frequently. Think: are they still needed? Could we reduce the number of them? Could they be moved to a central location or alternative storage?

Need more information? See this NHS-approved document on Good Stock Management in Healthcare Environments for detailed guidance on effective and practical inventory management.

Can sterile and non-sterile supplies be stored together?

In short, yes. But keep sterile and clean supplies apart on separate shelving in clearly labelled areas. 

For best practice in storing sterile supplies in hospitals, consider the process as a whole (from initial disinfection and sterilisation to placing the sterile item on the shelf). For sterile supplies, including equipment, the method of sterilisation and means of packaging is dependent on the instrument itself, and the packaging’s integrity is reliant on its storage conditions. The storage of a sterile item will directly impact its sterility, so considering how sterile items are sterilised, packaged, transported, delivered, unpacked, and put into storage areas is essential. 

If separate storage rooms aren’t available, take steps to ensure clean and sterile supplies are stored separately and that this can be maintained by anyone with access to the room through training and signage. Stick to separate shelves (sterile on upper shelves, and clean supplies on lower shelves to reduce the risk of dust or bacteria transferring onto and contaminating sterile items).

NHS Guidance on the Set Up of a Clean Supply Storage Area

The NHS offers the following guidance for the storage of clean supplies in hospitals:

  • Storage facilities for clinical supplies, whether fixed or mobile, are based on the use of a modular storage system.
  • Modular storage systems (cabinets, trolleys or shelves) are designed to accommodate standard sized baskets or trays.
  • Modular storage systems can be tailored to particular requirements. They assist with segregation of supplies and stock control, and are believed to be more space efficient than standard storage systems.
  •  In secure store rooms, unless required for hygiene purposes, cabinets and trolleys may be open. Where doors or other means of closing (roller shutters etc) are specified, a system of identifying the contents is necessary.
  • The choice of materials for modular storage systems should be based on test-proven performance, availability and cost. Melamine coatings and plastic foil edgings to chipboard are not recommended for healthcare buildings.

Health Technical Memoranda (HTM) NHS Hospital Standards Requirements

Health Technical Memoranda (HTM) must be followed strictly by all UK healthcare facilities. They provide informed fundamental standards that must be complied with to ensure efficient and safe operations in clinical environments to ensure patient and staff safety. 

The following tips for proper storage of clean supplies in hospitals are informed by HTM and NHS guidance to support you in providing the best patient care possible.

Complying with HTM documents is crucial in UK hospitals. The NHS provides access to Health Technical Memoranda and Health Building Notes on their website if you need more detailed information.

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Our Top Tips for Storage of Clean Supplies in Hospitals

1. Organise the Area Well

  • Provide accessible hand hygiene facilities that are easy to get to (e.g. provide a sink with soap and hand sanitiser at the entrance of the storage area)
  • Store clean and sterile supplies separately.
  • Use dividers to keep different supplies apart and easily accessible.
  • Store liquids on or near bottom shelf to reduce the risk of injury when moving them, or spilling liquid over other clean supplies.
  • Inner boxes (containing items like wound dressings, gauze bandages, syringes or gloves) should be disposed of when empty. Do not re-use or top-up half-full boxes.
  • Clean and disinfect contaminated containers before using them to distribute clean or sterile supplies.

IMPORTANT NOTE 

If items, such as PPE, have been taken out of the clean storage area into a patient room or care area, or on supply carts/trolleys, they must not be returned to the clean storage area.

2. Keep Unauthorised People Out

  • Ensure the clean supply room is marked with clear signage including no entry warnings for the general public.
  • Limit access to the clean storage area to as few staff as possible. Only trained individuals such as clinical and support staff should have access.
  • Ensure that the door can be securely locked when not in use.

3. Use Sensible Storage Solutions for Easy Access and Protection

UK hospitals are required to comply with HTM 71 standards that apply to the kinds of modular storage trays they utilise. 

HTM 71 standard legislative requirements include:

  • Modular storage trays which can be supplied in an open format using liner or basket tray solutions
  • Storage trays may feature doors
  • All storage solutions should enable easy access and organisation for products and treatments

    Additional Tips:

    For shelving, cupboards, and carts or trolleys:

    • Shelving, doors, containers, lids, etc. must be made of tolerant materials that are suitable for cleaning products that meet HSE standards.
    • Top shelf contents should be protected from dust and moisture.  Use protective covers or sealed containers.
    • The bottom shelves should have no holes in them to prevent dust contamination.
    • Shelves for sterile and clean medical supplies and devices should be at least 25cm from the floor, 45cm from the ceiling and sprinkler heads (if any)
    • All clean supplies should be stored at least 5cm from exterior walls of the supply room.

    For storage containers (including boxes and baskets):

    • Containers must be kept clean and free of visible dust or soiling
    • Ensure all containers are closed and covered during distribution and transportation.
    • Clearly and accurately label all containers.

    4. Use Hygienic, Cleanable Surfaces and Safe, Good-Sized Structures

    The NHS’s HTM 63 covers furniture in healthcare settings. HTM 63 compliance ensures that all furniture designs are manufactured in accordance with the strength and durability required for hospitals. These required standards apply to shelving structures as part of storage of clean supplies in hospitals, too.

    Standards for HTM 63 include:

    • All units should offer sufficient clearance to allow complete wet cleaning underneath
    • Cantilever leg units with wall fixings should be used to ensure no fixings are fitted to floors

    Additional tips:

    • Surfaces including floors, walls, ceilings, shelves, fixtures, door handles, and all touch points must be smooth, non-porous, non-shedding, and easy to clean. 
    • Storage space and containers, shelves, etc., must be of adequate size and height to prevent the risk of damaging packaging or crushing contents

    5. Don’t use fans, humidifiers or heaters in Clean Supplies Area

    This could compromise the integrity of the storage area such as change the temperature, increase moisture in the air, and contaminate clean supplies.

    6. Unpack Clean Supplies Outside of the Clean Supplies Area

    Hospitals receive multiple deliveries of supplies every day. Ensure that all clean supplies are carefully unpacked on arrival OUTSIDE of the clean supply storage room. This is because most external packaging is porous, can’t be cleaned, and may be carrying dust and bacteria. 

    Our tips for the unpacking process:

    • Ensure supplies are removed from shipping packaging and cardboard OUTSIDE of the clean storage area, but close by if possible.
    • Do your best to protect the external and internal packaging from damage, including puncture, crushing, bending, being kicked, dropped, thrown, handled unnecessarily, cleaned around, dripped on, etc. 
    • Keep deliveries of supplies away from direct airflow such as heating, ventilation, air con, etc.
    • Inspect all supplies for tears, dampness, water marks (dried too), excessive dust or dirt, and expiration date BEFORE transferring it into the clean supply area.
    • If packaging fails inspection at any stage, even if just straight out of the shipping container, it must not be used. 

    IMPORTANT NOTE

    A sterile item is considered contaminated if there is any doubt about its sterility. You must discard single use items IMMEDIATELY. Reusable items should be returned to the supplier to be reprocessed if possible.

    7. Move Clean Supplies Around The Hospital Safely

    Medical supply carts or trolleys are used in hospitals to store and transport clean and sterile supplies and equipment from the store area to patient care areas around the hospital. 

    To maintain optimal hygiene and the effects of proper storage of clean supplies in hospitals, the NHS advises that “supplies trolleys may be restocked in either a clean utility room or clean supply room” to ensure cleanliness and reduce the risk of transmission from patient areas. 

    It is also important to store any unattended clean supply trolleys in locked or supervised areas to protect the contents from interference, contamination, or theft. 

    Guidance for Medicine Cupboards in Patient Areas

    The guidance around storage of clean supplies in hospitals should be understood separately from the guidance around the storage of medicines in hospitals and other healthcare settings. 

    Safe medicine storage and medicine cupboard requirements are specified by British Standards. The Department of Health endorses the British Standards’ requirements in UK hospitals.

    In short, the essential British Standards requirements for medicine cupboards are:

    • Metal cupboards should be provided for the storage of medicines to ensure compliance with BS 2881. This excludes patients’ bedside medicines storage and automated drug dispensing cupboards.
    • Medicines must be stored safely and securely in the correct type of cupboard, meeting the Misuse of Drugs (Safe Custody) Regulations 1973 where applicable.
    • Trays and baskets are considered unsuitable for storing medicines (except external medicines and dressings and IV fluids) because they do not allow medicines to be adequately segregated and clearly displayed and hence may increase the risk of incorrect medicines selection.
    • All cupboards, closed storage units (that is, with doors) and fridges in which medicines are stored must be lockable and should be locked when not being accessed. Locks for metal cupboards (except patients’ medicines cabinets) must comply with BS 3621.

    Storing Clean Linen in Hospitals: Best Practice

    Linen storage is an essential part of the safe storage of clean supplies in hospitals. Here at Steroplast, we have been supplying hospitals and emergency services with medical-grade bedding products such as disposable pillow cases and reusable wipe-clean pillows, so we understand the importance of clean linen storage.

    hospital bed

    The NHS’s guidance around a clean linen store is:

    Clinical areas should have designated areas for the storage of clean linen to maintain the cleanliness of the linen and allow easy access. Storage should be on slatted shelving or racking and be off the floor, with sufficient space under the lowest shelf to permit cleaning the floor underneath.

    Keeping your clean supplies storage area clean: Best Practice

    The NHS 2021 National Standards Of Healthcare guidance provides detailed information about the procedures hospital staff and cleaning personnel must follow to ensure optimal cleanliness in the clean supply area and wider hospital areas. 

    Essentials for maintaining the cleanliness of clean supplies storage in hospitals:

    • Keep clear of visible dust or spiking.
    • Follow written procedures for cleaning and maintenance of storage areas.
    • Follow routine cleaning schedule.
    • The hospital’s responsible cleaning department must: 
      • Provide staff with training.
      • Provide adequate equipment and resources for effective cleaning.
      • Monitor and supervise cleaning staff.
      • Document training on cleaning standards and maintain training records.

    Steroplast supplies NHS hospitals with premium medical-grade hospital cleaning products suitable for use in clinical environments, including clean supply rooms.

    NHS hospitals have been using pH-neutral Hospec Liquid Detergent for over 30 years. Ideal for hygienic surface cleaning, dishwashing, manual cleaning, and floor mopping

    How to Store Cleaning Equipment in Hospitals: Best Practice

    Breaking the chain of infection with effective cleaning procedures that are followed strictly and consistently is essential. Along with following the correct cleaning methods and using the right equipment, proper storage of the cleaning supplies themselves contributes to keeping patients safe and reducing avoidable healthcare costs incurred through the avoidable spread of HCAIs.

    Our tips for hospital cleaning supply storage:

    • Cleaning equipment should be kept separate from the designated areas for storage of clean supplies in hospitals and other healthcare environments.
    • Hospital cleaning equipment should always be stored in dry areas away from patients, visitors, and other supplies. Limiting access to cleaning supplies ensures that only authorised and trained staff members can use them.
    • Use designated caddies to keep everything separate. E.g. cleaning PPE should not come into contact with mopping equipment.
    • Use shelves and racks to ensure supplies are separate, reducing the risk of transmitting harmful pathogens from one item to another.
    • Maintain an up-to-date inventory for each cleaning supply storage area. Expired products should be removed promptly. In addition, the 
    • Clean the cleaning equipment area regularly.
    caution wet floor sign in hospital

    If you found this article helpful, but want more information about Steroplast’s role in the medical supply chain or the ways that we support healthcare organisations and businesses, please don’t hesitate to get in touch

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