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Last Updated: Friday, 12 October 2007, 16:11 GMT 17:11 UK
Working undercover at dirty hospital
Danielle Glavin
With a fake reference and a button hole camera I started work
Three years ago BBC News reporter Danielle Glavin worked undercover to highlight poor hygiene standards at a hospital run by the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust.

She speaks of her time there after a report said 90 deaths at the trust's hospitals could have been avoided.

Cleaning in a hospital is a tough and thankless job, it involves bagging up clinical waste and scrubbing toilets used by hundreds.

But the headlines about MRSA and Clostridium difficile infections show just how important it is to do it properly.

I spent a week working as a hospital cleaner after South East Today received complaints about poor hygiene standards at the Kent and Sussex Hospital in Tunbridge Wells.

Buttonhole camera

During my time there I saw used medical instruments dumped in a sink for 24 hours, a bloodied gown left on a trolley for a day and a build up of old dirt.

I saw patients exposed to possible infections and found hospital policies being breached - even by some in-house supervisors.

Unwashed cups in ward utility room

In May 2004 after 45 minutes of training I became the new Accident and Emergency department cleaner but with a buttonhole camera hidden in my uniform.

On the first day I noticed old blood stains on the floor and unlocked sharps bin, containing used needles, lying in corridors.

In the following week I found food in the fridge that was so mouldy it was unrecognisable, in an A&E operating theatre there was such a large amount of dirt I had to use a dust pan and brush to clean it and under shelves of medical equipment I found a shocking build up of old dirt.

Clinical waste skips, which contain bags full of old dressings, were left unlocked and often overflowed even though hospital policy states they have to be locked at all times. I asked a supervisor if I should lock them, she told me not to worry as it was a Friday.

Water jugs changed

On a ward where four of the patients were being barrier nursed to stop infections spreading I saw how the system breaks down.

A cleaner, who was teaching me how to clean, collected the water jugs from every bed and simply swilled them out with cold water. She re-filled and then randomly returned all but one of them.

Clinical waste in the corridors

I asked if they should be washed properly and she explained she had washed them that morning so didn't bother in the evening.

Rose Gibb, the former chief executive of the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Trust, had only been in post for six months when we showed her the investigation.

In response she said: "We're investing, we are making radical changes, it takes time to get sustained improvement and I will not stop until I get the standards that I believe the population deserves."

She resigned on Friday and has not commented on this latest report but it mirrors many of South East Today's findings and shows that her pledge was not delivered.

Bug hospital chief pay withheld
11 Oct 07 |  Health
Q&A: Clostridium difficile
11 Jan 07 |  Health


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