NHS ‘Hygiene Standards Struggle’

NHS trusts are struggling to meet key hygiene standards, according to data submitted to the NHS watchdog. One in four trusts have reported they are not complying with one of the three standards relating to the hygiene code, covering areas such as cleanliness.

But the Healthcare Commission said the evidence showed 40% of the 394 trusts in England were meeting all 24 core NHS standards – a rise from 34% last year.

The standards cover everything from clinical effectiveness to governance.

Trusts self-declare how they are doing against the core standards, which then help determine their overall NHS rating.

The Healthcare Commission now has to verify the data by cross-checking the information against its own intelligence, audits and surveys by other organisations and through a system of targeted spot-checks.

The rise in trusts reporting full compliance was also accompanied by a rise, from 74% to 85%, in those saying they are meeting 90% of the standards.

Trusts did best in meeting standards covering professional codes of practice, whistle-blowing and openness.

There was also a rise in the number of trusts reporting they met the two standards relating to compliance with the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, which issues advice on new treatments.

But with the three standards that relate to hygiene, compliance had fallen.

In particular, on reducing the risk of infection, 14% said they had failed, up from 7% last year.

A similar number said they could not say they decontaminated equipment properly – up from 12.6%.

Over one in 10 did not meet cleanliness standards either.

It meant that 99 trusts – one in four of the total – were not meeting the hygiene code.

A spokesman for Patient Concern said: “This is terrible. It is bad news for patients and shows trusts are not getting the basics right.

“Trusts are too worried about hitting targets than making sure patients are cared for properly.”

Gill Morgan, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “By recognising in an open and honest way that they need to do more, trusts are taking the important steps towards delivering excellence for patients.”

But Lib Dem health spokesman Norman Lamb said: “There has to be a cultural change within hospitals. Three-quarters of hospitals are successfully implementing effective measures – there is no excuse for others not to follow.”

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley added: “The one in four yet to meet the code need to realise that it is an imperative not an option.”