back to article NHS orders mass keyboard clean-up

If you’ve read the reports about the average office keyboard being dirtier than a toilet seat, you may want to take a leaf out of the NHS’ book. The healthcare body has ordered thousands of specialist germ-resistant keyboards. According to a report by the Press Association, the keyboards are completely flat and covered with a …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Takes me back...

    Sounds like a ZX81 keyboard, or maybe an Atari 400 keyboard.

    If you've had a liquid lunch will breathing heavily on the keyboard be enough to trip the alcohol sensor?

  2. Anonymous Coward


    So the "NHS" orders 75000 keyboards, presumably under the disastrous NPfIT programme which has failed to deal with the political situation in the "NHS". I can't wait to hear of Hospital Trusts rejecting the keyboards because they can get them cheaper or have just taken a job lot from Pfizer/Glaxo/Roche in exchange for preferring to using that companies equipment/drugs.

    I would hate to work in IT in the English Health Service, some of the politics in the Scottish one is bad enough.

    Take a guess why Anonymous has been ticked.

  3. Chris Morrison
    Dead Vulture

    You have to be joking

    "The NHS hopes the keyboard order, which is thought to be for 7500 keyboards at a cost of over £1m in total,"

    £133 per keyboard. Is the keyboard made of platinum?

    That is a disgrace!

    Grumble Grunble rant rant, where do our taxes go.

  4. Tony W

    Even better than keyboards

    My GP surgery has a touch screen for booking yourself in. Truly a brilliant idea - after all they could be out of a job if we're too healthy.

  5. Ginger
    IT Angle


    £133 per keyboard? I need to start selling some technology to the NHS - anybody want to buy a used database?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They woz robbed!

    Over £1m for 7,500 keyboards? £133 each!! Nice work if you can get it.

  7. Jason Hall


    "Dr Peter Wilson, a University College London Hospital consultant microbiologist and co-inventor of the cleaner keyboard, told the PA that in tests the keyboards were shown to have a positive impact on keyboard cleanliness."

    The Inventor of *the* product advises the hospitals to buy *his* product?

    Cor what a surprise.

    Who cares what is on a keyboard when *ANY* nurse/doctor should clean their hands before touching anything/anyone that needs to be kept clean?

    When hospitals are still using antibacterial handwashes, even when known to be dangerous who else is surprised what they will spend our money on.

  8. Steve Foster


    Wouldn't it be a darn sight cheaper to use standard keyboards and either:

    a) swap them out monthly (or biweekly or...) for cleaning, or

    b) have a box of cheap disposable gloves by each one, to be worn while typing (and then binned).

  9. Ash
    Thumb Down

    A better idea


    Put a roll dispenser to one side of the keyboard. Apply a layer over the board before use, throw in bin aftewards.

    Green? You can go green in your car and home, but keep my open wounds sterile please, even if it means a little more waste.

  10. Peter Ford

    How much?

    Ok, so £1million / 7,500 units = £133 each...

    I reckon I can easily get regular keyboards for less than £5 each, so I could chuck every keyboard away each month for two years and have money left over.

    'course, that's not a very green approach...

  11. John

    That's £133 / keyboard!

    Just thinking....good work if you can get it....

  12. Simon BUCH

    Over £133 per keyboard?

    What cost do you put on a life? But £133 seems rather excessive for what could easily be done with a touch screen.

    Or better still, give everyone their own personal keyboards, which would also act as a security measure too ...

  13. Max Lock


    Some IT guru at the NHS read an article stating that keyboards are the new toilet seats for germs and decided to pull out the public cheque book yet again. Its not good enough that the public purse was used recently to replace keyboards during the current failing IT project for the NHS when Card Readers were required, but now it seems that NHS staff can't be bothered to wash their hands prior to using the PC keyboard and need a specialist germ proof keyboard.

    Here's hoping that some fool from the NHS doesn't read that patients hold more germs than keyboards, otherwise we will only be treating a few people a year, now there's an idea!

  14. Frank

    WTF and then some!

    This is ridiculous - £133 for a PC keyboard !?!

    A fix for a common problem which they feel needs a high-tech solution?

    The British Veterinary Association (after intense research) have figured out the solution to this for about £10 a keyboard. (Vets really do know a thing or two about keeping crap off equipment)

    See if you feel the need for professionally endorsed hygiene.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    My ergonomic spider-sense is tingling.

    "completely flat" keyboards? Would these be the same type of low-travel keys responsible for a number of soft-tissue injuries?

    Health service indeed.

  16. This post has been deleted by its author

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Cleaner than toilet

    So not only are our worksurfaces at home dirtier than a toilet seat, but so are our keyboards?

    Well I'll save the NHS £1m for new keyboards.....just piss on your existing one.

  18. Chris

    What a con!

    So the NHS are paying 1M quid for some keyboards with a flashing LED on a time-delay at £133 each? Oh, for that price it must be self-cleaning, shirley? Nope, the staff still need to manually clean the keyboard *twice a day*. It doesn't take a fucking brain surgeon (or specialist microbiologist) to work out that if you clean *any* keyboard twice a day it will be cleaner.

    FFS sake when will NPfIT programme be put out of it's misery it's just a money pit now!!

    I mean, come on, you can get standard waterproof keyboards for 10% of the price. Fecking idiots the bunch of them


  19. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Re: A better idea

    Clingfilm would be cumbersome, but if you google for "plastic keyboard cover" then you'll certainly find options for much less than £133.

    In conjunction with Jason Hall's somewhat stunning suggestion that folks' hands should be fairly clean *before* they start typing, I think we may be able to undercut Dr Wilson by something approaching an order of magnitude.

    Boffin icon because my google search phrase is obviously a work of inspired genius and not something that a mere consultant microbiologist could have come up with.

  20. Sam

    shocked and stunned

    I just took my keyboard out to the kitchen to clean it with dettol surface cleaner, and when I came back I was informed that Firefox could not find

    That's eight metres and three brick walls away on used batteries, AND IT DIDN'T COST ME A HUNDRED AND THIRTY QUID EITHER!!

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Waste of time.

    We recently for PACs (Digital Xrays) bought a lot of mobile wireless PC carts. For use on wards with the carts we ordered a Unotron keyboard ( which are fully waterproof and can be washed under a tap. For use in Theatres we ordered an iKey keyboard ( because they have no gaps betweens keys for dust and other particulates to collect and are also fully waterproof. I can tell you that neither of these get washed at any point. I have been called into an O.R. during an operation to fix wireless issues on a cart and the keyboard was dusty and filthy. If they think getting the keyboards in the article will make a difference they are wrong and it is a major waste of money.

    I believe if they just wiped and cleaned the standard keyboards they have with alcohol wipes every couple of hours as well as washing their hands properly before use then the infection risk is minimal.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Cleaning a keyboard

    I hate to comment on this but when was the last time you tried to clean every surface of a standard keyboard? I clean my keyboard twice a month and it takes me upwards of 20 minutes. Having a flat board that can be cleaned using a wipe in 10 seconds would be far more efficient since even those plastic glove covers it takes a couple of minutes to cover every surface.

    As to touch screens, have you ever tried to input data quickly on a touch screen, it isn't comfortable, fast or easy. Plus you would still have to clean the damn thing as often.

    p.s. I have the patent on the version of this board that automatically sprays itself with disinfectant and then uses little wiping arms to suck up said disinfectant every time it is used!

  23. John Robson Silver badge

    Projection keyboards I hope

    Then it's just another surface for the standard cleaning procedures.

    Project it big enough and they could dance to type ;)

  24. Juillen
    Paris Hilton

    The cost..

    Of infection control inside a hospital is MUCH greater than the cost of the keyboards..

    Keyboards have been shown to be infection vectors in a goodly many reputable studies, and what people seem to be forgetting in this thread is that the NHS is NOT a business.

    When you go into hospital, and have some pretty radical surgery (say a bad car smash that lands you in intensive care), would you rather have the medical staff using a £133 keyboard that to the best of available research and design will poke busy and distracted people to say "Clean this now, otherwise bad things may happen", and have a good chance of being as free of infectious material as possible, or would you rather have them using a 20 quid keyboard from the local shop, with an uncertain level of cleanliness?

    I know which I'd rather.

    There's a reason why the NHS spends shed loads on sterilization of equipment, tracking it's historical usage, and having very tight guidelines on what qualifies as medical equipment (would you like surgery performed with a modelling knife, or a surgical scalpel? The modelling knife is far cheaper!).

    This isn't part of the NPfIT. It's part of the infection control process to keep people alive. It's seen as a way of keeping more people alive. Are you going to quibble over a few quid because you can get cheaper non-medically certified gear down your local shop?

    And trust me, though cleaning ANY keyboard twice a day will make it cleaner, will it make it clean in a medical sense? That's where the money goes (making sure that it is 'clean' in a medical sense, not a general "it looks shiner that it was earlier, and who cares about the bits of old sandwich stuck in the cracks and gaps").

    Paris, 'cos she cleans up nicely too.

  25. pphffff IT


    These keyboards, will they include Chip and Pin style smart card readers?

    Many of the new NHS systems require smart cards to access them. I know there have been big roll-outs of new keyboards with integrated smart card readers around here, and it would be utterly typical to have to endure another roll out, incorporating a step backwards in this regard.

  26. Andrew Davenport

    Bloody Hell!!

    We used to fit piss covers to keyboards for nursing homes for £5.00 each, they could be removed, cleaned and put back on again. Lots cheaper than £133.00 per keyboard!!

  27. Jon G


    I cannot understand this criticism of the NHS. We (the ungrateful public) should feel honoured and privileged that they spend £90BN of our money each year, and still manage to kill off an increasing number of patients themselves through unclean wards and equipment (the true figure is covered up of course by the medical establishment). At least if they start having clean keyboards, then all the managers, consultants and bureaucrats will be clean and safe - just a pity about the patients......but then again, they always come last in the scheme of things with the great god NHS

  28. Gav

    Everything is has more germs than a toilet seat

    I wish people would stop using toilet seats as the ultimate benchmark for germs. Germs require debris to replicate and thrive, your average toilet seat is a smooth surface with usually nothing worse than a splash of sterile urine to contend with.

    So just about every surface with nooks and crannies is "dirtier than a toilet seat". Particularly if they collect human debris. That includes keyboards, your mouse, your desk, the bit behind your monitor and the even the back of your hand.

  29. Jason Hall

    Ken Hagan

    Me: "Who cares what is on a keyboard when *ANY* nurse/doctor should clean their hands before touching anything/anyone that needs to be kept clean?"

    Ken: "In conjunction with Jason Hall's somewhat stunning suggestion that folks' hands should be fairly clean *before* they start typing, I think we may be able to undercut Dr Wilson by something approaching an order of magnitude."

    Notice I didn't specifically say they should clean their hands before they start typing.... I said their hands should be clean before they touch anyone/anything that needs to be kept clean.

    ie. why clean the keyboard to that level so that the same nurse/doctor can pick her/his nose and then go touch a patient who needs to be kept clean?

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Covers are easier

    To the person who suggested disposable gloves - do you know how much they cost? And how many pairs the average ward would go through per shift?

    Some of the keyboards at [DELETED] Hospital in [DELETED] have flexible rubber covers on to keep crud out of the keys, and they work just dandy.

    Unfortunately, as someone else pointed out, many of the NHS IT apps require the use of smartcards plugged into keyboards for 'authorization' and the covers don't work with the stupid bloody card-enabled keyboards.

    And before anyone (Jon G, this includes but is not limited to YOU) gets too snotty about the staff within the NHS, just remember that the staff you see in the 'front lines' of the wards, clinics and reception areas are not the ones you should be ranting at; they have no control over who spends what and where, they have to make do with whatever they are given by their lords and masters.

    Having worked in a hospital myself, I would say that 99.99% of the staff washed their hands whenever they went in or out of a ward or (in the case of the medical staff) handled a patient... whereas it was only about 25-30% of the "visitors" who could be bothered with it. I'd say it wasn't the staff causing the problems...

    If you have to visit a hospital and there's a handwash, USE IT.

  31. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Re: Toilet seats

    "So just about every surface with nooks and crannies is "dirtier than a toilet seat"."

    ...except for the toilet itself, which is completely sterile, since there's little dispenser in the cistern leaking "all known germs, dead" into the water.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What happened to the deep clean

    I am sure that the recent deep clean of all wards in the english NHS was meant to also include computer equipment and other desktop items. If thats the case shouldn't have all the keyboards been cleaned or replaced then. I don't recall handing out new keyboards to our wards when they were deep cleaned.

  33. GumboKing

    Telephone Sanitizers

    I guess all the keyboard cleaners ended up on the same spaceship as the telephone sanitizers. Money for new keyboards is a small price to pay to save civilization from ruin!

  34. Vince
    Paris Hilton

    More importantly how clean is the smart card?

    It's moving with the staff, isn't cleaned and gets put in and out of dirty slots...

    Do I ned to explain Paris...??

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Keyboards already in use

    These keyboards are already in use in one hospital I know of.

    Apparently they beep every 15mins to be wiped down. From what my NHS friend told me, they are as El Reg explain, basically an old school membrane keyboard, and a pain in the arse!

    Paris because she has to wipe every 15mins ;)

  36. Craig Ringer

    Ceramics with induction power & bluetooth

    There are, IIRC, keyboards out there that're smooth ceramic plates, using induction fields for keypress detection and a short range RF or bluetooth connection to the host.

    If you added magnetic induction power supply to those devices, you could have an easy-to-clean power pad and a keyboard that was a neatly rounded slab with no cables or protrusions. You could just swap them around every day and drop them all in a bucket of disinfectant ... or with some hardening even autoclave them.

    Despite that, hospitals seem to keep on using keyboards that require cables trailing everywhere (dirty!) and that have uneven surfaces (very dirty!).

  37. Anonymous Coward

    they sacked Me!

    i was working on a rollout,

    i asked some despotic manager some questions as i was from outside thier insane culture and was trying to get my head round how thier crazy system worked.

    the next day i get sacked with no notice or explanation why.

    They burn thier allocated IT budgets as fast as they can so they dont go under budget and get thier yearly budgets trimmed.(sound familier)

    (me thinks its not the IT hadrware budget that needs trimming) [more likley the fat cat (40k+) middle padding managers]

    The NHS needs a serious head to toe audit, with no punches pulled,

    Maybe the next job for Sir Alan, after he's finished sacking wannabe employes on silly TV shows. even better send a TV crew to follow him round as he tears the Excess Fat from the NHS and turns it into a lean efficient operation, that delivers on what it was set up to acheive...

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