Saving the NHS £1million a year with some foam

Comment from the Closet (at the hospital) – listen for someone knocking on the door

Last week I found myself as an unplanned guest of the NHS in Scotland. The quality of care was fantastic and the improvements in communicating and reinforcing good hand hygiene practice over the last few years have improved immeasurably.

However I was amazed to find that the NHS is still using cartridge liquid soap systems.  Now I can see the positive arguments for using a cartridge system, which is more expensive than bulk fill but in a hospital environment where you need single use dispensers and ease of shifting stock between rooms, bays, wards and wings the cost is probably worth it.


The bit that surprises me is that the hospitals have not moved to a foaming soap delivery method.  ‘Why should they?’ I can almost hear you ask. Well we recommend foaming soap over liquid soap for a variety of reasons so let’s look at them individually.

  1. Cost – foaming soap lasts about 10 times longer than liquid soap depending on the manufacturer’s dosage. The average liquid soap will dispense between 1-3ml of soap per ‘pump’, and even 2 or 3 pumps of liquid soap doses have less volume than one dose of foaming soap.
  2. Efficacy – when washing hands it is important to wet your hands first so that the (liquid) soap is spread easily across the skin. Foaming soap has a much higher liquid content and is much easier to spread over the skin.
  3. Dry Skin – liquid soap is much more concentrated and is more difficult to wash off the skin. By leaving traces of liquid soap on your skin the oils are removed and can cause dry or cracked skin.  Foaming soap is less concentrated and easier to wash off the skin.
  4. Packaging – the current system uses a plastic bladder inside a cardboard box. The box could go or even a supplier being innovative and moving to an even more environmental option
  5. Fun – children love using foaming soap it encourages them to wash their hands!

So why would the NHS not make the change?  Possibly the cost to replace the millions of soap dispensers in the system, although any supplier worth their salt would be happy to bear that cost.

Possibly risk of infection? I can see an argument (albeit a weak one) that the foaming soap is mixed with air to create a foam or mousse, and that there is a hypothetical risk of pathogens being exposed to the soap, but is this risk any higher than pathogens being exposed to liquid soap not being washed off of hands properly?  I think not and both risks are reduced by the use of hand sanitisers in the wards these days.

So this begs the question why does the NHS not make a small change and save potentially millions of pounds instead of washing it down the drain every day in every hospital in the UK?

Toilet Trends for 2016?

2015 is almost over so it seems appropriate to look forward to what might be big news in the Commercial Washroom Sector in 2016?

  1. Puff the Magic Dryer.   The world’s first ‘hand dryer designed with Children in mind’  is being seen in more and more nurseries, preschools and primary schools.  Recently listed in the YPO schools catalogue for 2016 I expect him to be in a few more by the end of the year.  Having talked to the manufacturers Airdri recently, it seem that not only will Puff be flying into schools in the UK and abroad but due to his quietness and friendly features he is being trialled in some of the biggest hospitality groups in the UK.  So you might just see him in a baby changing room in a pub, restaurant or fast food outlet near you soon!

    Puff the hand drying dragon
    Puff the Magic Dryer – Flying global in 2016
  2. Water harvesting.  Yes this concept has been around for a while but with increased costs of water across the UK water harvesting is becoming a simple cost saving exercise – as much as 50% of a commercial property might be flushing perfectly good drinking water down the drain.  With the basic set up cost starting at £2000 there will be plenty businesses that will see a return on their money pretty quickly – much quicker than solar panels as it rains at night too!

    cost reductions in commercial washrooms
    Rainwater Harvesting – the next big green trend in washrooms?
  3. Inclusivity.  ‘The Design of Buildings and their Approaches to Meet the Needs of Disabled People’ – Code of Practice was published in 2009. It  recommends that Changing Places toilets should be provided in larger buildings and complexes. But there are moves afoot that instead of being a recommendation, they should be compulsory for modern public new builds in order to not exclude anybody who may wish to use them.  As improvements to technology and subsequent reductions in cost have at last started to kick in I think ‘changing places’ will become more common in public areas – particularly shopping and leisure centres as well as larger pub, hotel and restaurant chains who see the commercial opportunities targeting the ‘disability dollar’.

    Changing Places – legislation change?
  4. Toilets as a retail business.  The model has been around in Europe for a few years and the first unit has opened up in Covent Garden (2theloo) but I suspect there will be at least 6 in London before the year is out.  As shopping centres start to bear the brunt of local authority cutbacks there will be growth in a fully commercialised public access toilets across City Centres and tourist areas across the UK.

    commercial toilets
    2theloo retail washroom concept
  5. Can and battery free air fresheners.  EU waste legislation is a bit sketchy here but the industry is poised for a massive shift from standard aerosol, battery operated type air fresheners to non aerosol and battery free alternatives.  V-Solid from vectaire is the one to watch.

    v solid
    Air freshener of the future?

So there you have my 5 toilet predictions for 2016.  If only I had the toilet equivalent of Marty McFly’s sporting almanac!  Thanks for reading my blog please share it if you see fit and a like is always welcome.  Warm washroom wishes for 2016, whatever your business.