Hygiene squads all set to hit dirty hospitals

In an effort to reduce infections among patients, independent investigators are to carry out random spot checks on hospital hygiene.

The UK Healthcare Commission has already ordered checks, mainly at acute units, at 100 hospitals in the UK.

The health inspectors will check operating theatres, wards, outpatient areas and ancillary rooms for blood, dirt and other potential health hazards.

They will be armed with a 55-point checklist, and will target trusts that have had a poor record on hygiene, but less dirty hospitals will also receive visits, and inspections will take place at NHS and independent units.

Within days hospitals will receive the results and will be requested to implement an action plan for improvements.

The soaring rise in the number of cases of MRSA and other hospital infections in recent years, has prompted the move.

The British government has set a target of halving the rate of MRSA alone by 2008.

Older people, particularly men,are susceptible to MRSA which kills about 1,000 people a year in the UK.

On a more positive note, March figures showed the number of cases had reached the lowest level since 2001.

Although the infection does not cause a specific disease it infects wounds and can get into the blood stream, causing blood poisoning and even organ failure.

Significant levels of disease can also be attributed to other hospital infections.

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt earlier this month, ordered an independent inquiry into the spread of the Clostridium difficile bacteria at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire.

More than 300 patients at the hospital have been infected with the bug, since 2003, and 12 elderly patients have died.

Healthcare Commission chief executive Anna Walker said there was a danger that poor hygiene in hospitals could damage patient confidence in healthcare.

There was, she said, a lack of hard information about the state of hospital hygiene across the country, but the aim was to learn from best practice and challenge bad practice.

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