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Healthy Market Growth

Following increased media coverage on the cleanliness of hospitals and the danger of deadly 'super bugs', the Government's 'Deep Clean' policy has been brought in to ensure all hospitals undergo a 'deep clean', incorporating everything from the larger elements through to all fixtures and fittings. Here, Kevin Norman of Newey & Eyre discusses the qualities and effectiveness of the latest products for use within the healthcare sector.

During recent years, the news agenda has been permeated with concerns over the rise in hospital superbugs, culminating in a damning indictment of hygiene levels in the health service. One report showed that a prime stomach bug found in hospitals, Clostridium Difficile, claimed 72 per cent more lives in 2006 than it did in 2005. In fact, it was shown that since 1990 the number of people infected by this deadly bug has risen 50-fold. This is in addition to the threat posed by one of the most common hospital superbugs, MRSA.

Consequently, in September 2007 the Government announced the 'Deep Clean' programme, with an aim for every NHS hospital to be thoroughly cleaned to industrial standards, including all fastenings and fixings, in a bid to tackle such hospital superbugs. As an added knock-on effect of this, the electrical industry has seen an unprecedented demand for products which can work to improve hygiene in healthcare.

There is, for example, an expansive array of cable management products with antimicrobial properties, designed specifically for industries where hygiene is a top priority. As microbial organisms can also cause product deterioration, discoloration and bad odours, these products combine antimicrobial treatments to help prevent these effects and provide an extra level of protection when combined with normal cleaning procedures. These systems typically use a bespoke PVC-U treated with a silver-based material. This delivers ongoing antimicrobial properties that prevent 99.9% of harmful bacteria growth, without impacting on the effectiveness of the product itself, even if scratched or damaged.

To provide a clearer understanding of the undisputed effect of such systems, numerous studies have been completed, comprising of separate testing for MSRA and Klebsiella Pneuoniae, in accordance with ISO 22196:2007 on a Bio and a non-Bio sample, to expose the known quantity of bacteria under laboratory conditions. Following a period of 24 hours, the quantity of bacteria still present was measured. These studies have shown, in both cases, the survival rate of bacteria on the Bio sample to be less than 0.1%.

Many premium electrical accessories brands have also developed equally innovative solutions to aid in the healthcare sector's ongoing battle against superbugs. Health environments can look to safeguard from germs by using wiring accessories which incorporate a high grade thermoset material with similar inherent properties to antimicrobial additives, helping to significantly inhibit the growth of infectious diseases. Again, these products even incorporate a scratch-free design meaning there are no dirt traps for bacteria to breed.

Looking to the wider picture, while hygiene is the primary focus of such solutions, many manufacturers have also given considerable time to introducing added benefits to the health sector. To allow for utmost flexibility, many of these ranges include single and double gang socket outlets and are available in either switched or unswitched. These are suitable for all builds, ensuring the benefit of easily 'adding on' as needs evolve. To ensure maximum safety in an environment where it is so pivotal, others boast a highly effective 'child resistant shutter system', which only opens when the plug is positioned correctly and can considerably reduce misuse. This provides a comprehensive solution for the key healthcare issues of hygiene, adaptability and security.

As the media continues to dedicate news time and column inches to the issues around cleanliness within health establishments, there will remain an environment of concern around hygiene. As a result, the increasing demands for electrical products which can contribute to any hygiene regime will only escalate and contractors will need to stay aware of this in order to meet the evolving needs of their customer and, in turn, provide a competitive edge and make healthy profits.

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