Clean Up Your Act

“Blood splattered walls and filthy rooms” – with that description anyone would think we’re still living the age of barber surgeons. In a damning report, the Care Quality Commission has revealed that 42 of the 167 NHS trusts inspected failed to meet NHS hygiene standards, with 5 failing the inspections so dismally that they are facing fines and/or closure. For the first time ever, the CQC has also investigated ambulances, and unsurprisingly four out of 11 trusts failed this too – breaching the terms of their contracts. The full ratings for the 394 NHS trusts in England can be found online at


Now when things start going to pot, at least get the basics right. You would think that in Britain, a developed nation, hospitals would be clean and meet basic hygienic standards.  The CCQ shows that our NHS hospitals can’t even do that and I find this thoroughly disappointing and ridiculous. When you have developing third world countries that can produce clean hospitals then why can’t we? We have the resources, we have the people and we have the legislation in place. 

I was horror-struck at the number of failures reported. 

Investigators found dirty, mouldy forceps stored in ‘visibly dirty’ ambulances in the West Midlands,  re-used dirty neck braces in the north-west, blood stained dirty walls and floors in Stockport ambulances and hand wipes unavailable in Essex. If that’s not bad enough, Alder Hey hospital – one of the largest for children in Europe, revealed brown running water from taps to be used by patients, filthy toys, hair stuck to medical equipment and “nappy changing mats stored on the floor next to a toilet with a dirty baby bath inside the full-size bath”. 

There is no excuse for these failures! Attitudes need to change. How hard is it to wash your hands regularly? Even small children can manage it. These simple, yet fundamental, habits can transform hospitals into clean, pleasant environments for patients & staff and reduce the indefensible number of hospital-acquired infections people are picking up day after day. The environment plays a crucial role in patient recovery yet hospital-acquired infections are estimated to affect 300,000 patients every year. How can we create attractive wards for patients to stay in? 

Standards are slipping and at a time where budgets are stretched to breaking point and staff rushed off their feet we can at least make sure that at a minimum the simple, quick and basic actions that keep our hospitals clean are carried out. 

Co incidentally, after surveying more than 150,000 NHS staff, the report also found that a staggering 46% felt they were rushed or understaffed. It’s a figure that once again indicates how a lack of time, conflicting demands and shortage of staff on wards means that workers are unable to carry out duties efficiently. And despite most staff proposing they were satisfied with the care they personally provide, fewer had the same confidence when the care provided by their trust came in question. 

What does this tell us? Attitudes towards hygiene are one thing, but even when staff want to keep their hospitals clean and their standards high but feel they can’t because they just don’t have time or manpower, that’s very worrying indeed.  When we have one of the highest rates of  MRSA in Europe, trusts have been reported as not making progress on reducing rates, and the ratings provided do not even include C difficle. And with streams of emergency admissions pouring in this isn’t helping. Such infections have often been blamed on ‘hot bedding’, where bedding and surrounding area is not left vacant for a sufficient amount of time for adequate cleaning, this is due to increased pressure on staff to meet targets. 

We need tougher sanctions, continuous monitoring to put the spotlight on such issues and generally a can-do attitude towards cleanliness.

Pawandeep K Kahlon

2020health Researcher

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