Headlines: December 15th, 2005

Hospitals are being challenged today to regain patient’s confidence about cleanliness by bringing all services up to the standards of the best. The Healthcare Commission makes the call today as it publishes the findings of the first independent inspections of hospital cleanliness in England, which show only one in three hospitals measuring up to the highest standards.Inspectors visited 99 NHS and private hospitals between July and September. The visits were unannounced to prevent Hospitals carrying out any late clean up work before the inspectors’ arrival. Two thirds of hospitals failed to meet the highest standards in cleanliness across the board with mental health hospitals in the sample performing particularly poorly.

The Commission divided hospitals into four bands and found high standards of cleanliness being achieved in a significant proportion of organisations with 33 hospitals in band one. It says, though, that too many hospitals failed to perform as well as they could with 44 being in band two, indicating that there was room for improvement.

There was evidence, the report says, of systemic problems in the 23 hospitals placed in bands three and four. This indicates that that cleanliness was unsatisfactory for an environment in which clinical care was being provided. All the NHS mental heath hospitals visited by inspectors are in band four. That, says the Commission today, indicates serious and widespread problems for them and for 18 of the 22 hospitals in bands three and four.

Simon Gillespie, Head of Operations at the Healthcare Commission, said, “It is a myth to say all our hospitals are dirty. Among the highest scores were hospitals of all types. This shows that healthcare managers can achieve the highest standards, and all should on behalf of patients. Nevertheless, the findings show that too many hospitals are failing to perform as well as they could. And some have particularly poor standards of cleanliness.”

Mr. Gillespie said concern about cleanliness had been driven by the prevalence of hospital-associated infections and the assumption that poor hygiene was contributing to these. If a hospital had dirty and poorly maintained facilities, he said, patients would have little confidence that it could implement the sophisticated precautions that were needed to prevent infection.