Hospital's clean bill of health attacked

CASH-STRAPPED health chiefs have been accused of “cheating” hospital inspectors by employing extra staff and giving wards last minute face-lifts in time for a cleanliness assessment.

CASH-STRAPPED health chiefs have been accused of “cheating” hospital inspectors by employing extra staff and giving wards last minute face-lifts in time for a cleanliness assessment.

The West Suffolk Hospital NHS Trust allegedly hired a team of painters who “worked around the clock” to smarten up various departments ready for an inspection by the Healthcare Commission last Thursday, it has been claimed.

The trust is also said to have employed four people from an agency and drafted in 10 members of housekeeping staff from other areas of the hospital in Bury St Edmunds to bring the wards “up to scratch”.

But the trust stressed any such work being carried out at the hospital was strictly routine, and not as a direct result of the inspection.

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Last week's visit was made as a follow-up to an unannounced inspection in July, when the Healthcare Commission team gave the hospital a score of 87% for cleanliness.

Out of the six wards and areas visited at the time, half were placed at band one level - the highest of the Healthcare Commission's ratings - while the other areas had “room for improvement”.

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This time around, however, the Healthcare Commission's senior assessment manager found no points for recommendation.

But last night, a hospital spokeswoman for public service union UNISON, claimed the clean bill of health given to the hospital was due to a massive clean-up operation that took place in the week or so leading up to the inspection.

“Our members feel that West Suffolk Hospital has cheated the inspectors,” she said. “They knew the areas the inspectors were going to and just blitzed the place, but the staff just feel that the hospital should be that clean all of the time.”

She also questioned the expense of the work carried out on various wards and areas of the hospital, including the accident and emergency department.

“A team of painters were brought in by the trust to work around the clock to smarten the hospital up,” she said.

“A team of 10 housekeeping staff were drafted in from other departments to bring the five areas to be inspected up to scratch, and four agency staff were employed. It must have been at great expense.”

Steve Moore, director of facilities for the West Suffolk Hospital NHS Trust, labelled the claims “ridiculous”.

“To suggest that we have been sitting on our hands since July and only sprung into action last week as a direct result of the Healthcare Commission visit is ridiculous and barely worthy of rebuttal,” he said.

“We were one of about 90 trusts that received an unannounced visit in July and as a result of that experience we drew up a detailed action plan that we have been implementing ever since.

“We took on two agency cleaners last week because we had many staff on leave combined with high sickness levels, and it is important for the trust to maintain its usual high standards of cleanliness. This is a common step to take in those circumstances.

“We also had some painting contractors in but, again, this is something we do from time to time in order to maintain our estate, and much of the work they carried out was in areas not visited by the senior assessment manager.

“We also use our housekeepers in a flexible way to provide cover at times of holidays and sickness and this is what happened last Thursday.”

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