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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 December 2005, 00:48 GMT
Cleaning hospitals 'like housework'
By Liz Shaw
BBC health reporter

Hospital ward
Housekeeping staff work with nurses to help keep the hospital clean
Keeping a hospital clean requires the same input as keeping on top of the housework.

That is the verdict of the chief executive of a west London hospital, which received one of the top scores in a health watchdog's spot-checks of 99 NHS and private hospitals.

The Chelsea and Westminster NHS Trust in London was deemed the fourth best, with a score of 97%.

When you hand over your mum to A&E, or for something serious you want to know they'll be well looked after
Heather Lawrence, Chelsea and Westminster NHS Trust

Heather Lawrence, chief executive, said: "I'm very pleased for the staff and partners who have the cleaning contract because we've come a long way.

"It's about culture we've created of working together, of patients working with us."

She added: "Patients are telling us what they see, rather than us saying what level of cleanliness should be.

"They were interested in was how clean the hospital was, were they going to get MRSA and how good was the food.

"We recruited people from that to work with our staff to check.

"This year they told us it's a very clean place to be and they felt safe.

"With the introduction of patients being able to choose which hospital they are treated in, I think everyone will be putting efforts into making sure the hotel standards are equal to the clinical standards."

She added: "If you can have confidence in a hospital, you're more likely to feel more relaxed, able to listen to what people are saying to you, and to respond in a way that helps you get better when recovering from surgery - and for relatives to feel safe in leaving you there.

"When you hand over your mum to A&E, or for something serious you want to know they'll be well looked after.

"Part of that measure is 'is it clean', 'do they have good food?' 'Will my mum be able to use bathroom?' Really important things.

"The reputation of hospitals and the NHS is equally important on that side as with clinical care. "

'Never quite perfect'

She said everyone in Chelsea and Westminster saw cleanliness as part of their responsibilities.

"Ward sisters develop a partnership with housekeepers, who are very much part of the team, and we see it as everybody's business to have an environment that we would want if we were coming into hospital for ourselves, or our family."

The inspectors looked at the hospital's A&E unit and two inpatient wards, looking at everything from general cleanliness, to the state of toilets, and the kitchen and pantry where food is prepared.

Ms Lawrence said: "Like everywhere it's never quite perfect, but they were quite minor things that they found.

"Any cleaning, like housework in our own home, is an ongoing process.

"It needs leadership and management.

"Many of use have contracted out services and it's a partnership at all levels from the top down or the bottom up. It's about people being clear about the importance of this. "

But she said some hospitals had particular challenges.

"Some people work with very old estate and can be difficult.

"We have to recognise the different challenges other organisations have.

"It hasn't had the priority - we do have many targets - one should be under no illusion we are surrounded by targets and it's difficult to give everything the same level of attention.

"It's about people making sure they have focus in all areas."


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