A cross-party parliamentary group is launching an inquiry into healthcare-acquired infections.
The move will bring MPs into the growing debate over the future of contracted-out cleaning services, with health minister Andy Burnham calling last week for staff to be consulted over decisions on the provision of services.
But the inquiry has already come under fire from Unison, which wants more time to give MPs its views on contract cleaning.
The All Party Parliamentary Group for Business Services has taken oral evidence from contract cleaning companies and has invited unions and the Department of Health to give written evidence. It hopes to publish a report in the spring.
The group is supported by the Business Services Association, which represents contract cleaning companies, and the inquiry will be chaired by shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley.
A Unison spokesperson complained that the union had been asked to give written evidence by tomorrow and not invited to give oral evidence.
'We have a lot of evidence that we would like to put to the committee about contracted-out cleaning and the difficulty of trying to work to two masters,' said the spokesperson. 'They will not have our evidence in time to challenge some of the information they will be getting from people at the oral evidence.'
BSA policy analyst Robert Langridge said: 'We would have liked to have taken oral evidence from everyone but there is just not time. The written evidence will form the basis of the report.'
BSA director-general Norman Rose said: 'I am confident that, in addition to recognising the valuable contribution made by many in-house teams, this inquiry will demonstrate the good work being undertaken by private companies working in the NHS in combating HAIs.'
The inquiry follows renewed debate about the role of cleaning in preventing HAIs, and whether trusts should return cleaning to in-house teams who may feel more a part of the NHS.
Health minister Andy Burnham last week recommended that the NHS 'go further in bringing together its workforce by taking the opportunity to break down the divide between clinical staff, cleaners, porters and other support staff.'
Decisions about whether services were contracted out should remain with trusts, he said, in a report to the prime minister - but the views of staff should be sought when decisions were taken about provision.
Reflecting on his experience shadowing cleaners, he said: 'It was clear that the cleaning team wanted to feel more closely involved with the running of the rest of the hospital and to be part of the same team as the ward staff... I think that it is a legitimate request, given the importance of the cleaning service to local perceptions of the trust and the sense of accountability staff feel.'
Scotland plays game of 'Pass the Pathogen'
Model infection control policies are to go on the web to help fight healthcare-acquired infections in Scotland.
The model policies and literature reviews were launched a year ago and have just been reviewed. They are now on the Health Protection Scotland website.
Quizzes and games - including 'Pass the Pathogen', leaflets and training presentations can all be downloaded and are available in different formats, designed for different care settings.
Claire Kirkpatrick, nurse consultant in infection control at HPS, said: 'Through the introduction of these materials ... we aim to provide care settings in Scotland with options to facilitate the implementation of the Scottish model infection control policies.'