Decontamination of Reusable Medical Devices

What is involved in the decontamination of reusable medical devices?

Decontamination is the process of ensuring that all re-usable medical and surgical devices, such as endoscopes and surgical instruments, are thoroughly cleaned and sterilised in line with strict guidelines and standards before they can be re-used.

To give an idea of the complexity behind the decontamination process, here are the key stages of decontamination:

  • Washing
  • Disinfection
  • Sterilising
  • Reprocessing
  • Repackaging
  • Transportation
  • Storage
Decontamination of reusable medical devices

What needs to be decontaminated?

There are many re-usable medical and surgical devices throughout various areas of healthcare including operating theatres, clinics, wards, accident and emergency departments and many more. Our services cover training for the decontamination of reusable medical devices, tools and instruments.

  • Endoscopes
  • Scalpel handles
  • Artery forceps
  • Orthopedic drills
  • Dental instruments
  • Medical devices used in plastic or eye surgery

Why is decontamination so important?

It is imperative that any medical instrument, tool or device, both new and re-used, are thoroughly decontaminated before they are used. This is because they may contain traces of skin tissue, blood, bodily fluids or other unwanted body from its previous use.

Lack of successful decontamination can result in major problems such as devices being refused from theatre and as a result stopping an operation from going forward, no matter the size and importance of the operation.

Decontamination Standards

All instruments are run through a meticulous process of decontamination following strict guidelines and procedures. Decontamination standards include Health Technical Memoranda, Health Building Notes, International and European standards and standard equipment specifications.

Find out more about the three levels of decontamination of reusable medical devices >

Roles We Help

Decontamination plays a big part in many roles across the healthcare sector. Below is a list of some of the roles that we help, have helped, or would benefit from our services such as our decontamination training and consultation.

This list is based upon a ‘typical’ hospital trust. However, clients from our other sectors will often have equivalents (or amalgamations).

Decontamination Unit Manager / SSD Manager

It is typically the responsibility of the decontamination unit manager or SSD (Sterile Services Department) managers to ensure that equipment and instruments are fit for use by the medical staff e.g. surgeons or other ‘end users’. This type of role usually covers the organisation or provision of training to machine operators for simple checks and monitoring as well as conducting checks for, and arranging quarterly and annual validation tests by validation engineers.

Decontamination Lead

Usually a strategic role with responsibility for long-term decontamination strategy often across an entire hospital trust. May have an engineering or SSD background and be involved in ensuring new decontamination machines and methods are coordinated as part of the strategy and current decontamination guidelines.

The decontamination lead is responsible for all matters relating to decontamination within a trust or organisation and will interpret relevant national and international standards and provide expert advice to all other departments.

Designated Person

This is a person stipulated by the HTM (Health Technical Memorandum) as being responsible for decontamination / sterile services in terms of the relevant board-level committee(s). In terms of hospitals, this tends to be a site-wide position and this person is often a clinician such as a chief nurse, pharmacist, surgeon, doctor or microbiologist.

Team Leaders / Supervisors

In a hospital environment, these officers will have responsibility for ensuring frequent tasks are carried out. In terms of decontamination, this may cover tasks such as checking whether daily or weekly decontamination machine checks have been conducted. In larger organisations, these individuals will need to sign off other people’s checks as a way of verifying operator monitoring has been conducted.

Designated Engineers

Customer-side engineers (as opposed to our own validating and authorising engineers) are responsible for the maintenance and running of decontamination equipment. Often working within the Estates and Facilities department of a hospital, these individuals are sometimes trained to conduct validation tests too.


These are the people who use the decontamination equipment and can also perform frequent periodic testing (typically, daily and weekly checks). We provide various training courses to ensure that these users understand how to use the machines and conduct relevant checks/tests.

Authorised Person (Decontamination) – AP(D)

An AP(D) is responsible for a specific ‘area’ that contributes to the running of a hospital within government standards and guidelines. As well as decontamination, a hospital will have other authorised persons covering electrics, other utilities etc.

The AP(D) will report issues to the relevant parties and review ongoing monitoring. They also look for (and report upon) trends – particularly if these may cause potential issues e.g. increasing TVC counts over time that while within a tolerance, may require attention in future.

Executive / Director

Ultimately responsible for the roles described above, AVM has worked with a number of hospital trust boards to fulfil positions (assist with job descriptions for instance) and has also put in place AVM employees and contractors to fill short-term placements, including as decontamination leads.

AVM Services – Decontamination Specialists

Find out more about our training courses for the decontamination of reusable medical devices: