In early March, the ward manager of our small unit announced we were due a deep clean as part of the government's new initiative to combat hospital infections.
A rigorous list of procedures was read out: rooms were to be stripped; radiators, air vents and windows washed; walls wiped; carpets shampooed; and so forth. The proposed start date? Anytime between 1 and 30 March.
As a small eating disorders unit, we would be squeezed into a slot lasting one or two days. We were assured any disruption would not interfere with meal times. Weeks passed without further update.
A day after the deadline - somewhat inauspiciously on the eve of April Fool's - the taskforce arrived. At 8.30am, mid-breakfast and unannounced, two women and a man dressed in tabards and armed with mops, buckets and a variety of gloves descended.
Immediately after breakfast, we service users hurriedly threw every last possession - every poster from the wall, each item in the bathrooms - into any available bag and put these in a three square metre room (bearing in mind all of us are female, this is no mean feat).
Down to business
Out came the cleaning materials, and the walls indeed began to be wiped. Presumably the wisdom of leaving a miscellany of disinfectants at times unattended around a psychiatric unit had been risk assessed.
Unaware the deep cleaners were in attendance, our regular domestic also turned up for her usual shift. A fastidious and dedicated worker, she seemed at once flattered and dismayed to hear a tabarded member comment there was no need to "do the bathrooms" - they looked clean enough already.
Perhaps obviously, a number of us were disproportionately interested in the deep clean of the kitchen. Even staff seemed baffled at how this involved diligently wiping around each item in the room.
At lunch time, the cleaners took an hour's break, returned for around an hour's more work, and had apparently deep cleaned all the rooms in less than five hours.
I can only comment on what I saw and on the reports of other service users and staff. The drawers of our cabinets were wiped, and there was definitely an abandoned vacuum cleaner in the doorway of my room on completion of the deep clean. Any difference to my bedroom, however, was indiscernible enough to warrant me questioning whether or not it had been "done".
The windows, which to my knowledge have been cleaned only twice since the unit was established 12 years ago, were as before - covered in tree sap and grease from the nearby main road. The carpet had certainly not been shampooed, and the radiator casing had not been removed, nor had the radiator or surrounding wall been cleaned. (Somewhat concerning as unit myth has it the last time these radiators were removed for painting, an entire piece of buttered toast was found!).
Rather than dirty and dry, cabinets were now dirty and damp; and rubbish was found under the beds, suggesting a non-contact method of cleaning akin to that in the kitchen was likely applied. A bucket of dirty mop water was left in the corridor for five days before our regular cleaner returned from leave to discard it.
I could not fail to see the irony of then replacing all my possessions (now potentially having shared bacteria with other service users') back into my room. Ditto that of putting used bedding back on the "deep cleaned" mattresses. The best illustration of the result came when the deputy charge nurse returned after a day off and refused to fall for the April Fool that the deep clean had been and gone.