HEI inspectors uncovered a number of problems, including finding out-of-date medical supplies dating back to 2002, when they visited a hospital maternity unit, it has been revealed.
Members of the Healthcare Environment Inspectorate (HEI) visited Caithness General Hospital in July this year.
When they examined the maternity unit, they found out-of-date sterile medical supplies, with some of these items having expired as far back as 2002.
The HEI - which was set up last year in a bid to reduce the risk to patients from hospital acquired infections - has now recommended that NHS Highland implement an effective stock rotation policy in the hospital’s maternity unit.
Inspectors also found torn bed linen in the maternity unit and said cleaning in that part of the hospital “needs to be improved”.
There was evidence of mould in the shower facilities, while bins for domestic and clinical waste were “dirty and rusty”.
Inspectors also found baby changing mats were stained underneath, with these later removed by staff.
However the HEI found the overall standard of cleanliness in the hospital was good, stating: “The majority of wards inspected were visibly clean.”
Its report also praised the infection control nurse at the hospital for being “very visible on the wards”.
Susan Brimelow, HEI chief inspector, said NHS Highland was complying with the majority of standards to “protect patients, staff and visitors from the risk of acquiring an infection within Caithness General Hospital”.
She added: “The overall standard of cleanliness within the hospital is good and the majority of the wards inspected were visibly clean. Environmental audits are being carried out, action plans produced and senior charge nurses have a good awareness of the audit results for their ward area.
“However, we did find that further improvement is required in some areas including the standard of cleanliness within the maternity ward and the sharing of feedback from public representatives involved across NHS Highland’s public involvement programme.”