Do You Know Why Hospitals Need to Clean Their Ductwork?

A 2017 study published by The British Medical Journal highlighted that most London hospitals and clinics are located in areas that are above the limit of air pollution. This means that health professionals must care for those in hospital settings where pollution can aggravate existing ailments.

This led London Mayor Sadiq Khan to install hospital air quality monitors, which allow patients to receive guidance on which hospital entrances are prone to the least pollution levels. Although hospitals cannot influence air quality beyond their walls, they help improve ventilation in a controlled, contamination-free environment.

This requires taking a decisive step and sanitizing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to improve the indoor air quality for patients and healthcare professionals.

Dirty ductwork can cause healthcare-associated infections.

Hospitals are the main sites for the spread of MRSA and other microorganisms. Dust, dirt, and other debris accumulate all over the place, and it is simple to clean off the floors and walls because they are usually visible. However, these harmful substances are not noticed in the hospital ductwork.

Leaving ductwork uncleaned is likely to contribute to developing and spreading healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs). Covid-19 has refocused on the importance of maintaining and cleaning ventilation systems. However, there’s always been a need for it. For instance, the flu and common cold can spread through filthy ventilation systems.

Although it is a good idea, more than regularly changing the filters is required since filters cannot hinder the growth of bacteria. It is essential to do this along with regular cleaning of the ductwork to maximize the chance of limiting the growth of bacteria and the consequent reduction of the associated diseases. For more info, click here!

The reason is that, in heating and air conditioning systems, temperatures and humidity levels, along with the substances that encourage the growth of microorganisms, are an unintentional mix. If the ducts are not cleaned, they can become a perfect place to breed MRSA and Clostridium difficile.

Although in the past, hospitals have paid a lot of focus on preventing the spread of infection and viruses by disinfection, the importance of regularly cleaning the ductwork has been a top priority in the past couple of years.

Healthcare Tech Memorandum 03-01 Specialised ventilator for healthcare facilities

Health Technical Memorandum, released in July 2021, contains detailed guidelines on the legal needs, routine testing, and maintenance of ventilation systems that are specialized in health facilities.

Generally, the document states that all ventilation systems must be checked annually to ensure compliance with the minimum standards set in the Building Regulations. Specifically,

ventilation systems must not contain any substance or material that can encourage the growth of microorganisms.

Here are a few of the most important takeaways about cleaning systems for ventilation:

The visible particles must be eliminated from the intake area of a system for ventilation.

AHUs need to be cleaned and washed or wiped inside to remove dirt and dust.

Drift eliminators (if installed) should be removed, as well as cooling coils, humidifier units, energy recovery devices, and drainage systems, which must be cleaned with hot water every year to eliminate visible contaminants.

Extract air systems must be cleaned as often as needed to maintain efficiency. Room extract systems, especially ones located in low-level areas in critical care areas, must be cleaned regularly.

If, following cleaning ducts, there remain ongoing issues with fungal spores that are released from supply terminals, and there is no evidence of the final filter bypass, samples of air must be taken in AHU intake, AHU intake, and AHU discharge, and also at minimum one supply terminal in each branch of the system.

The challenge of hospital ductwork cleaning

Hospitals are busy, and the managers are often unwilling to undertake activities that could impact the patient’s care. But, failing to take the time to clean out ducts will likely cause harm to patients, especially those vulnerable to the risk of airborne infections.

It’s certain that special arrangements need to be made for access and clean ductwork. However, it is possible to reduce disruptions while focusing on patient treatment.

In the past, for instance, the government poured PS600m into NHS hospitals across England to support the “Build Back Better” campaign. The aim was to make renovations that included new electrical systems and modernized ventilation systems. Renovations are the ideal time to work on improving patients’ and personnel’ health.

Cleaner ducts–greener hospitals

We hope that we have shown the health benefits of cleaning ductwork; however, it is beneficial for reasons unrelated to sanitation. It is worth noting that the U.K. government has made important commitments to sustainability and “Net Zero Carbon’ targets, and the country is examined this year in conjunction with this year’s Glasgow COP 26.

Healthcare accounts for approximately 5.4 percent of U.K. greenhouse gases, and the NHS has acknowledged that it can ensure the country’s sustainability over time. NHS England will be presenting its findings at COP 26 that consider how it can effect significant modifications.

Inefficient ventilation systems are dirty because they can increase the energy consumed by up to 60 percent. This is due to dirty coils, ducts, and filters, which can increase the resistance of the fan, which consumes lots of energy.

This does not consider that HVACs can be the result of dirty systems, which could be responsible for 70% of the hospital’s energy bills.

Reducing energy bills is a key element of the NHS’s strategy to combat climate change, and duct cleaning could help in this regard.

Cleaner ducts save money.

NHS England’s budget for 2020/21 was PS129.9 billion, and there’s always the need for savings. Regularly cleaning the ductwork and removing obstructions will significantly reduce the electricity used by heating and air conditioning systems due to increased airflow, affecting the cost of heating and cooling.

In addition, prevention is the most effective solution, so implementing regular maintenance to ensure that the air is moving in the right direction through the ductwork can cut down future repair costs and prolong the system’s life. If air can’t move through easily, the system will need to work harder, which will mean it will cost significantly more to operate.


In contrast to restaurants that clean their ducts or in hotels, cleaning hospital ventilation systems is challenging since it’s difficult to shut down a hospital for a day. However, the advantages of clean ducts for preventing the spread of HCAIs, reducing energy expenses, and making hospitals more sustainable and sustainable far outweigh the discomfort. Planning carefully and making refurbishments are two methods to set up a time to purify the air that employees and patients breathe.

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