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Colour coding of hospital cleaning materials and equipment ensures that these items are not used in multiple areas, therefore reducing the risk of cross-infection. The National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) has developed a National Colour Coding Scheme for cleaning materials.

The recommendation is that all NHS organisations adopt this code as standard in order to improve the safety of hospital cleaning, ensure consistency and provide clarity for staff as there is currently no single colour code in use across the NHS. The National Colour Coding Scheme is designed to standardise, and in some cases streamline, existing schemes. It will have minimal resource implications for the service.

All cleaning materials and equipment, for example, cloths, reusable and disposable, mops, buckets, aprons and gloves, should be colour coded. The method used to colour code items should be clear, permanent and in accordance with existing local practice.

Cleaning products such as bleach and disinfectants do not need to be colour coded. Also, the code does not extend to catering equipment, for example, chopping boards and knives, where there is already a well-recognised and well-established procedure to ensure food hygiene and food separation issues are addressed.

The NPSA recommends that all NHS organisations providing inpatient services in England and Wales should make a policy decision to adopt the National Colour Coding Scheme where existing practice differs. They recommend all NHS trusts develop an action plan for introducing the National Colour Coding scheme and raise awareness of any revised practice amongst healthcare staff. By having a standard colour coding across the NHS it will be easier where people move from different locations to understand the one colour code system.

The colour coding is:

  • Red is used for bathrooms, washrooms, showers, toilets, basins and bathroom floors
  • Blue is used in general areas including wards, departments, offices and basins in public areas
  • Green is used in catering departments ward kitchen areas and patient food service at ward areas
  • Yellow is used in isolation areas.A copy of the NHS poster is in your student download area.