Figures show that there are almost 1,000 fewer NHS cleaners in 2019/20 compared with 2010/11.
Data published by NHS Digital shows that the full-time equivalent of almost a thousand NHS cleaners have been cut in England since 2010/11. The figures include both directly employed and outsourced workers. The amount spent by NHS trusts on cleaning services fell by £38 million in real terms – a decline of 3.4 per cent.
The data is part of a report that also reveals that the costs to eradicate the backlog of maintenance services to the NHS estate was £9 billion.
GMB, the union for NHS workers, has called for urgent investment as the figures “expose the extent of cuts to cleaning services over the last decade”.
Regular cleaning of wards and equipment is an essential part of the public health strategy for controlling coronavirus.
The union warned that many cleaning staff have been outsourced over the past decade and are enduring inferior pay and terms and conditions, and are under pressure to complete jobs too quickly.
Rachel Harrison, GMB national officer, said: “The NHS couldn’t function without its cleaning staff. They have been saving lives, often at real personal risk, since day one of the pandemic. Our members tell us that they are overworked, underpaid, and denied access to the right PPE. Some cleaning workers are put under pressure to complete jobs without enough time or the right equipment.
“These new figures confirm that a scandalous £38 million has been taken out of NHS cleaning budgets in real terms, while hundreds of NHS cleaners have lost their jobs. These cuts weakened the NHS and meant that services were vulnerable when the coronavirus pandemic hit. As we enter the third lockdown, it is more important than ever that NHS cleaners receive the resources, pay, and decent employment standards that they deserve.”
Facilitate has approached NHS Estates for comment.