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The BBC's Daniel Sandford
"It is a life and death issue"
 real 56k

Nigel Edwards, director of policy, NHS Federation
"Cleaning and catering have suffered the brunt of major cuts"
 real 28k

Saturday, 6 January, 2001, 09:32 GMT
Hospitals 'failing' hygiene tests
Hygiene standards laid bare
NHS hospitals are the subject of a sanitation survey
One in three NHS hospitals are still failing hygiene tests in spite of government attempts to improve conditions, a report has found.

Out of 700 hospital buildings assessed as part of an ongoing government survey into NHS sanitation, 250 were given the lowest grade for basic cleanliness.

Recent inspections revealed evidence of dirty linen, untidy wards and uncollected rubbish.

The findings were disclosed in the industry magazine Health Service Journal, based on figures from a branch of the Department of Health.

NHS wards remain filthy and a danger to the public

Dr Liam Fox, Shadow Health Secretary

Shadow health secretary Dr Liam Fox described the findings as a "damning indictment of Health Secretary Alan Milburn" and he attacked on the state of hospital wards.

He said: "NHS wards remain filthy and a danger to the public.

"I have visited wards where the state of the floor under beds would have provided enough material for a David Bellamy mini-series."

Poor standards

Patients' groups have been campaigning for better conditions after a series of revelations of poor standards.

Poor hygiene in a third of hospitals surveyed
Patients exposed to dirty wards
Last November a report for MPs linked poor personal hygiene practices of staff with disease outbreaks in hospitals.

St Thomas's Hospital in London was forced to close its operating theatres for heart surgery last August after two patients died from the superbug MRSA.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Paul Burstow, described the latest findings as "the legacy of a contract culture which has elevated cost cutting above public safety".

He added: "All cleaning contracts must now be reviewed. It is no longer clear who is in charge on hospital wards.

"Decisions about cleaning contracts should be taken at ward level. It is time to bring back matron."

NHS Plan

The Department of Health said the government had committed tens of millions of pounds to cleaning up hospital wards as part of a massive programme to improve hospital hygiene and is committed to carrying out hospital surveys under the NHS plan.

"We think it's inaccurate to give figures at this time before the survey is completed," a spokesman said.

"It has been going on for some time and two sets of visits to hospitals are due to take place over the next month or so.

"However, this is actually implementing what the government said it would do in the NHS plan."

Nigel Edwards, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, said he accepted the report's findings and blamed the hygiene problem on a cost-cutting culture imposed on the NHS by politicians over the past two decades.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "There has been, for 20 years, a history of asking the NHS to produce efficiency savings each year.

"What (NHS managers) have tended to do is look at areas which didn't affect the care of patients and over a course of years I am afraid what has happened is that cleaning and catering and some of those hotel services have suffered the brunt of major cuts in provision.

"We are paying the price of that now."

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See also:

05 Apr 00 | Health
Clampdown on hospital hygiene
31 Jul 00 | Health
NHS clean-up begins
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