Rapid improvements need to be made in the cleaning of hospital equipment in Scotland, inspectors have said.

The Healthcare Environment Inspectorate was set up last year to examine hospitals across the country to help control infections such as C difficile and MRSA.

Today in their first ever annual report, inspectors said Scotland`s hospitals were “generally clean and improving their standards of cleanliness”.

But HEI chief inspector Susan Brimelow added there were “important areas” where more needed to be done.

She said: “In particular, we expect to see rapid and sustained improvements in the coming year that focus on improved cleaning of hospital equipment and ensuring that up-to-date policies are available and being followed on wards.”

To help achieve this, she revealed the HEI would be carrying out more unannounced inspections in the coming year.

That was welcomed by Dr Jean Turner, the executive director of the Scotland Patients Association, who said she was “delighted” there would be more unannounced inspections.

HEI staff carried out 36 inspections in 29 hospitals in all Scotland`s 14 regional health boards during their first year.

In their annual report they revealed systems to identify equipment that had been cleaned and is ready for use were not always “being used correctly or effectively”.

The report said: “For example dirty equipment such as commodes were labelled as clean and ready to use.”

The inspectors stressed: “Cleaning patient equipment is an important area for improvement.”

While the report said hospitals were generally clean, it added there were “some problem areas that were more concerning than others”.

The inspectors said the poor state of repair of some walls, floors and door frames made them harder to clean, stating: “Damaged surfaces cannot be cleaned properly and, as a result, pose an infection risk to patients, staff and visitors.”

However they added there was “little evidence of effective systems to record and manage maintenance and repairs to hospital buildings and grounds”.

In some hospitals inspectors found damaged and stained mattress covers, which had caused the mattresses themselves to become contaminated.

They pointed out using these could lead to patients getting infections, and said: “All NHS boards should make sure that all mattresses are frequently checked for external damage and internal contamination, before and during use.”

The inspectors also said they had found that some cleaning schedules in wards and departments were “not consistently used or fully implemented”.

To address this they said: “NHS boards should ensure that cleaning schedules for equipment and the environment are in place and completed consistently.”