Results of individual hospital cleanliness inspections may not be made public until after the election.

Unannounced inspections are taking place over the next few weeks following up on the visits before Christmas which revealed that more than a third of hospitals failed to meet core standards.

But the Department of Health does not intend to release details of this second round of inspections until April; by then an election is likely to have been called triggering a shut down of sensitive information from all government departments.

The NHS plan said unannounced inspections would be carried out within six months and 'the results will be made available to the local media'.

But the DoH insists that no decision has been made on how the information will be presented and whether it will be in the 'traffic light' format used for the first set of inspections where hospitals were graded red, yellow and green.

'Once we have all the information in, we will be able to decide how it will be presented, ' said the spokesperson. 'I do not see it as a naming and shaming exercise.

Nobody is looking to attach blame to people at the moment.'

And Nigel Edwards, policy director at the NHS Confederation, called for the information to be released as part of a 'patient's prospectus' rather than in isolation. 'We need to give people information about how their hospital is performing, but that should be a rounded picture, ' he said.

The Patients Environment Action Team reports score hospitals from one to four - one is poor, four is excellent - on a variety of areas ranging from cleanliness to car parking.