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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 July, 2005, 18:01 GMT 19:01 UK
Background to the cleaner's story
Sign for Birmingham Heartlands hospital
For six weeks, Panorama reporter, Shabnam Grewal worked as a cleaner in one of the UK's top performing hospitals, now called Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust.

Good hospital cleaning is regarded by some scientists as one of the best defences against the spread of infections such as MRSA.

There is now a wealth of material telling hospital staff exactly how cleaning should be conducted in order to prevent the spread of infections, but footage to be shown in this Panorama shows that this advice is not always followed.

'Barrier' or 'Isolation' rooms, intended to keep infection under control. were not always properly signposted and even when they were, the procedures, designed to contain infections, were sometimes being breached by cleaning staff.

Basic cleaning rules, devised to stop infections spreading were being ignored by cleaners in a hurry.

Shabnam Grewal was put to work with a cleaner who can clean a toilet in less than a minute with a single wet wipe and another who thinks seats in a waiting room are cleaned by patients sitting in them.

Even nursing staff were caught not following simple procedures such as wearing gloves when dealing with equipment in isolation rooms.

During our filming at Birmingham Heartlands, it was awarded Foundation status and renamed 'Heart of England'. To help achieve this status, the trust scored 'excellent' in cleanliness inspections carried out by "Patient Environment" teams which consist of hospital professionals and representatives of patients groups.

There are also internal inspections in the hospital at Birmingham, but it is not clear that these will take the cleaners by surprise. Our reporter is told that the cleaning supervisors will begin tipping off cleaners to let them know when inspections will occur.

Cleaning at this hospital is provided by Initial Hospital Services, a company which is responsible for cleaning at 50 hospitals in the UK.


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