Accurate measuring and monitoring of temperature actually encompasses all areas of the home - from food delivery and hotel services to bathing, climate monitoring and infection control.
The health and age of residents obviously makes them more vulnerable to hazards like food-born bacteria which can be prevented by storing and cooking foods at safe temperatures. Even the most basic of thermometers will help managers in this area by ensuring reheated food is piping hot - although it’s important to check that a budget-buy doesn’t prove to be a false investment. First there is the question of value for money – long-life thermometers are much safer bet than the throw-away kind. But if you know you are likely to get through a lot of thermometers, look out for the companies which offer service contracts or maximum repair charge arrangements which gives you more control over spending. Secondly, there is the very important matter of accuracy. For example, the storage temperature of chilled food is especially critical so food thermometers should have an accuracy of +/- 0.5 degrees C. So its well worth looking closely at the specification when it comes to purchasing to avoid false results.
Managers also need to respond to the vulnerability of residents to less common problems like Legionnaires’ disease, in which safe water temperature is considered a first-line defence. The HSA specifically cite elderly and infirm people as a high-risk group and following changes in legislation in recent years, now even the smallest of nursing and care homes is expected to have a risk assessment in place, and to be implementing regular safety checks. The water-borne legionella bacteria which leads to infection only multiplies within a specific temperature band, so these safety checks commonly involve regular monitoring of pipe and water temperature in water tanks and pipes as well as running water from taps and showers. This can be an onerous task but one that is much easier to do in-house when you have the right equipment. Look out for clever ideas which make the job faster and easier like the new 2-in-1 temperature probe now on the market, which can be used for both running water and pipe surface – a popular choice for caretakers or building engineers who often bear the brunt of testing.
Another factor to take into consideration is what you do with a temperature once you have taken it! In recent years, European legislation has demanded a belt and braces approach to food temperature recording. Taking accurate temperatures alone is not enough - HACCP food safety regulations require enhance due diligence on the recording of results at every stage. And in legionella testing, the sheer number of water points and outlets even in an average sized building is only matched by the volume of records required to monitor them. All this can be a logistical nightmare for managers resulting in many a paper mountain, which is why many are turning to paperless systems that have the added bonus of reducing the risk of human error. This doesn’t necessarily require expensive wireless monitoring systems – the latest handheld thermometers, now available at a fraction of the cost, save time, money and paper by using Bluetooth communication to download temperature records direct to PC, mobile phone or PDA.
Following these developments in temperature safety, owners and managers are increasingly looking for more specialist suppliers of temperature measuring and monitoring equipment. Thankfully, temperature monitoring design has also evolved in response to these changes. Affordable solutions are available for a wide range of temperature ‘problems’ that commonly occur in residential care – from waterproof thermometers and dishwasher-safe food probes to handy temperature kits for legionella testing and data loggers for room temperature and humidity. Even the more innovative equipment doesn’t have to be expensive; look out for some really useful ideas like the food simulant probe which actually mimics the temperature of stored food to reduce spoilage or the revolutionary barcode thermometers which not only measure temperature but also use barcodes to record the unique identity of any location, item – or even person – that has been measured!
The main warning note to sound is that a ‘one size fits all’ mentality is one to avoid; make sure your supplier properly understands your particular application and what standards your home is trying to achieve. There are numerous factors to consider – not least the practicality of the equipment being proposed and how it will fit in with other operational requirements. So it’s important to know how adaptable your new purchase is – a compatible range of thermometers and probes which can be used in all areas is often a wise choice.
Luckily, buyers in the UK are fortunate to have a number of experienced thermometer manufacturers and suppliers to choose from. UK manufacturer, TM Electronics is one of these, offering free expert advice and a comprehensive range of accurate, quality thermometers and sensors for all aspects of nursing and care home management.
Tel 01903 700651