Published: 22/08/2002, Volume II2, No. 5819 Page 7

A hospital which was twice graded red under the government's clean hospitals programme is to axe its private cleaning contractors.

Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals trust is ending its contract with ISS Mediclean within the year, and plans to take the 80 cleaners who currently work at Wexham Park Hospital in-house.

The hospital failed its cleanliness inspections in autumn 2000 and spring 2001, but achieved an amber grading last autumn.

Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals trust - which also includes Heatherwood Hospital in Ascot - last month passed a cleanliness report and won three stars in the government ratings.

ISS Mediclean has been responsible for cleaning the Wexham Park site for the past six years.

An in-house team already handles cleaning at Heatherwood Hospital.

Trust chief executive Andrew Way told the trust's board public meeting this month: 'With hospital cleanliness, we achieved a good performance but only just got through.'

He said the move would improve standards, had the support of staff and that the majority of cleaners would 'be better off '.

Mr Way said the extra funds needed to bring the service in-house would be paid for by investment from the£1m the trust had earned through its three-star status.

Andrew Price, ISS Mediclean's commercial director, denied standards were the issue and said the decision was part of a trend since the ending of compulsory competitive tendering.

He said: 'We did not have an opportunity to bid to continue to provide the service.We are disappointed - but you win some, you lose some.'

East Berkshire community health council chief officer Sue Hann said: 'With Wexham, it has been referenced in complaints that it was filthy - particularly that the toilets and the sinks were blocked. I hope the hospital can do a better job.'

And Slough's Labour MP Fiona MacTaggart added: 'I am glad this has happened. I think it provides the opportunity to make sure cleaning in the hospital is part of the whole care process. It has been one of the reasons why we have not had a clean enough hospital.'