A Scottish maternity hospital has been criticised by inspectors for ongoing concerns about the cleanliness of its environment and patient care equipment.
Scotland’s Healthcare Environment Inspectorate this week published a report on Aberdeen Maternity Hospital, following a series of unannounced inspections.
Inspectors first visited the hospital on 21 August, but due to significant concerns about cleanliness in the neonatal unit, they returned on 5 September and again on 17 September.
Their report said “significant improvements” were required in four areas. Top of the list was ensuring patient equipment was clean and that the procedure for the cleaning it was understood by staff and fully implemented.
The hospital was also told to ensure the environment in its theatre and procedure room was clean and that a suitable healthcare-associated infection audit tool, or equivalent, was produced for these two areas.
In addition, the hospital must ensure expressed breast milk is stored appropriately and that documentation reflected best practice.
In their report, inspectors identified gaps in roles and responsibilities for overseeing cleanliness after speaking with clinical staff about domestic cleaning in the ward areas.
They said: “It was not clear what accountability the senior charge midwives have for the cleanliness of their ward areas.
“We were told that senior charge midwives rely on the domestic supervisor to ensure that ward cleaning is carried out to a good standard. Senior charge midwives do not sign off on the cleanliness of the ward or the work carried out by domestic staff,” they added.
The report did, however, note that staff demonstrated good hand washing technique and took the opportunity to wash their hands, or use alcohol-based hand rubs, between tasks.
In addition, staff in the neonatal unit displayed a good knowledge of the appropriate measures to take to manage the potential risk of Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection in high risk units.
HEI chief inspector Susan Brimelow said: “I am very disappointed at the findings from our inspection to Aberdeen Maternity Hospital and because of the serious nature of the findings, I escalated my concerns to Scottish Government.
“On all inspections the cleanliness of patient equipment and the environment were not satisfactory,” she said.
Theresa Fyffe, director of Royal College of Nursing Scotland, also described the report as “hugely disappointing”.
She said: “It raises serious concerns which the health board must address urgently if it is to reassure parents-to-be that the maternity hospital is able to look after new mums and babies to the high standard they expect and deserve.”
She added: “The report once again shines a light on the hugely important role that senior charge nurses have for cleanliness and maintenance of standards on their wards.
“This is an issue that NHS Grampian must tackle once and for all, so that senior charge nurses are not only clear about their responsibilities but have the authority to act.”
In total the inspection resulted in seven requirements and six recommendations being issued to the hospital’s health board.
NHS Grampian said it had already drawn up an action plan to address the concerns raised in the report.
In a statement, it said all of the issues raised “have been tackled as a matter of urgency and all the requirements and recommendations are being addressed”.
NHS Grampian chief executive Richard Carey said: “It is vitally important that we learn from this inspection and act swiftly on its recommendations.
“Patient safety is at the core of what we do and remains a top priority for all our staff to whom I am very grateful for their tireless efforts to address the inspectorate’s concerns.”
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