Safe management of care equipment

Care equipment is easily contaminated with blood, other body fluids, secretions, excretions and infectious agents. Consequently, it is easy to transfer infectious agents from communal care equipment during care delivery.

Care equipment is classified as either:

  • single use: equipment which is used once on a single patient then discarded. This equipment must never be re-used.
  • single patient use: equipment which can be reused on the same patient and may require decontamination in-between use such as nebuliser masks
  • reusable invasive equipment: used once then decontaminated, eg surgical instruments
  • reusable non-invasive equipment: (often referred to as communal equipment) – reused on more than one patient following decontamination between each use, eg commode, patient transfer

NB Needles and syringes are single use devices, they should never be used more than once or reused to draw up additional medication. Never administer medications from a single-dose vial or intravenous (IV) bag to multiple patients.

Before using any sterile equipment check that:

  • the packaging is intact
  • there are no obvious signs of packaging contamination
  • the expiry date remains valid
  • any sterility indicators are consistent with the process being completed successfully.

Decontamination of reusable non-invasive care equipment must be undertaken:

  • between each use/between patients
  • after blood and/or body fluid contamination
  • at regular predefined intervals as part of an equipment cleaning protocol
  • before inspection, servicing or

If providing domiciliary care, equipment should be transported safely and decontaminated as above before leaving the patient’s home.

Always adhere to manufacturers’ guidance for use and decontamination of all care equipment.

  • All reusable non-invasive care equipment must be decontaminated between patients/clients using either approved detergent wipes or

detergent solution, in line with manufacturers’ instructions, before being stored clean and dry.

  • Decontamination protocols must include responsibility for; frequency of; and method of environmental
  • An equipment decontamination status certificate will be required if any item of equipment is being sent to a third party, eg for inspection, servicing or repair.
  • Guidance should be sought from the IPCT prior to procuring, trialling or lending any reusable non-invasive
  • Medical devices and other care equipment must have evidence of planned preventative maintenance

For how to decontaminate reusable non-invasive care equipment see Appendix 7.

For decontamination of surgical instruments see HTM01-01 decontamination of surgical instruments.

Further information can be found in the management of patient care equipment literature review.

Manual contents

Chapter 1: Standard infection control precautions (SICPs)

Chapter 2: Transmission based precautions (TBPs)


Download a PDF copy of the National infection prevention and control manual for England