Published: 01/09/2005, Volume II5, No. 5971 Page 6

Ten acute trusts blitzed by teams of amateur cleaners for a BBC TV programme have been urged to make formal complaints to the broadcaster by the Department of Health.

Some of the trusts are even considering legal action after around 100 people armed with mops and dusters arrived unannounced to record footage in hospitals for the BBC3 programme Mischief. Those taking part are understood to have all been affected in some way by MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), and according to the BBC included a man whose leg was amputated after he caught the bug.

But the DoH described the programme as 'irresponsible' and has encouraged all the trusts to put together their own collective complaint. A spokeswoman said: 'We have got to make sure patients and staff are protected and stunts like this - barging into hospitals with cameras can cause security problems.' Patient confidentiality was also affected by the filming, she added.

She said the DoH would be 'very supportive' of any actions the trusts decided to take. 'Some of them have involved their lawyers depending on whether they feel the BBC has breached protocol regarding codes of conduct, or acted illegally.' Only one trust said it had no intention of taking the matter further. All of the others had either complained or where still considering what action to take.

A Princess Alexandra Hospital trust spokesperson said it was taking the issue 'damn seriously' and considering action via the Press Complaints Commission.

'They are trivialising an issue we take very seriously and making it into a joke. They claimed they were trying to raise the issue of MRSA but came in off the street and were running around clinical areas. Secondly they brought in a TV camera which breaks every rule in the book.' And a Portsmouth Hospitals trust spokesperson said: 'The Queen Alexandra Hospital, where the filming took place, is in the early stages of one of the biggest construction projects in England and in excess of 5,000 people per day use the main entrance area. The mopping would have been as irrelevant as mopping the pavement outside the hospital.' The filming took place on 21 August and the series is due to be aired in the autumn.

A BBC3 spokeswoman said all those who took part had been to a day course on infection control and how to clean effectively. 'It is ridiculous to think we would go into hospitals and further the risk of spreading MRSA.' She added that only corridors, lifts and main receptions were targeted. All the mops and cloths used came back 'filthy', she said.

'If you are in a hospital corridor and it is filthy, then what does that say? Patients will be transported through there. Nurses and doctors will use those corridors to go through to patients. The reception areas, waiting rooms, toilets - all of the hospital has to be spotlessly clean.'