Staff personal hygiene, outsourced cleaning contracts and not knowing where to complain are factors the public considers when asked to rate hospital cleanliness, research has found.
West Midlands strategic health authority commissioned Ipsos Mori to survey patient perception of hospital hygiene.
It wasn’t just ‘I saw some dust under the bed’
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The SHA’s programme specialist for healthcare acquired infections Vanessa Whatley presented the findings at the Infection Control 2010 conference.
Ms Whatley told the conference that patients’ assumptions about infection rates were heavily influenced by the visibility of cleaning staff.
“People wanted to see staff remind each other to be vigilant, hear them take infection seriously,” she said.
“They wanted to see the modern matron on the ward having a conversation with the cleaner.
“It wasn’t just ‘I saw some dust under the bed and it didn’t move the whole time I was here’. It was what they saw, smelled, heard and tasted,” she said.
Some findings were contradictory: patients were reassured by the smell of disinfectant but also wanted to smell fresh air.
Other results were surprising. For example, interviewees wanted to see reductions in the size of queues because the sense of a chaotic environment affected their idea of whether it was clean.
Patients were also concerned if they thought the “personal hygiene of patients and health care workers was not a priority”.