Date Published: 14 July 2005

Undercover Investigation into Hygiene Standards in one UK Hospital

Health News from the United Kingdom (UK).

Last night (13 July 2005), The BBC's investigative news programme "Panorama" reported on the state of hygiene and cleanliness in one particular UK hospital. This subject more generally has appeared in the news regularly in recent years and also featured in political debate prior to the general election in May 2005.

One of the most well-known "hospital super-bugs" is MRSA but this is not the only resilient biological danger in modern hospitals. Current reports state that 300,000 people/year aquire infections while in hospital - not necessarily during surgery or other invasive procedures.


The recent BBC's Panorama programme featured reporter Shabnam Grewal undercover in a large hospital in the Birmingham (located in the West Midlands area, which is approx. geographically central to the UK).

The programme included footage of the training of frontline cleaning staff, which included strict hygiene instructions. For example, regulations included rigourous changing of gloves, mop handles, and cleaning water between different areas/rooms.

While this may seem to be reassuring, practice post-training was not so rigourous. Staff were shown breaking hygiene rules in order to complete their tasks within the time available. Although the undercover reporter tried to follow the rules, this sometimes met with the disapproval and frustration of some other members of the staff.

Observations made during this undercover work were not universally negative: There were very clean wards, thorough cleaners, and concerned, vigilant, nurses and other staff. However, this was not true in all areas. Some footage conveyed the impression that some cleaning staff considered that when an area looked clean then it must be clean - and so one should move onto the next task/area. That is, accusations of insufficient standards were neither universal, nor (where they could be justified), necessarily concerned with laziness or incompetence. Staff were portrayed as busy individuals working hard to complete many tasks. They were also shown to be paying attention to the appearance of the areas they were working on, or had completed.

What was NOT always happening was strict adherence to time-costly procedures such as changing water. In other cases, procedures were not followed correctly due to lack of resources - in one case insufficient mop handles such that the undercover reporter could not change the equipment used from one area to the next.

Another issue raised concerned the long hours worked by some staff - and the consequent tiredness. Lack of appreciation and associate low motivation were also mentioned as exacerbating issues.

An informative programme highlighting issues and their causes.

Source: For more info see BBC website:

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