Decontamination and sterile services

Decontamination science manages all risks associated with health care acquired infections (HCAI) in the reprocessing of reusable medical devices.

This page has information on the role of decontamination science in the NHS, including entry requirements and skills needed. 

Working life

Staff working in decontamination science are responsible for ensuring that reusable medical devices, such as endoscopes and other surgical devices eg instruments and equipment are cleaned, sterilized and repackaged to high standards, ready for reusing in operating theatres and other areas of health care.

decontamination staff with needles

Re-useable medical devices are used in different areas of healthcare, including operating theatres, clinics, accident and emergency departments and wards. These devices include:

As these various devices will have been used before they reach the department, they may contain skin tissue, blood and other bodily fluids. So you will wear personal protective equipment while you’re working.

As a decontamination technician (sometimes known as a sterile services technician, sterile services assistant), you’ll work with a variety of medical devices under limited supervision within strict guidelines and procedures.

For each medical device, you will be responsible for:

For some of these tasks, you’ll use highly sophisticated and automated equipment, and for others you’ll use hand tools. You may be handling hot trays of equipment/medical devices as they come out of sterilising machines.

As an apprentice decontamination technician, you’ll do many of the basic tasks listed above and assist decontamination technicians under supervision.

As a decontamination technician, you'll also be involved in the training of more junior staff within the department.

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