• New rating system proposed for cleaning standards
  • Wards and theatres among areas to display star ratings
  • Scheme part of wider shake-up of cleaning in NHS

“Food hygiene style” ratings will be displayed on every NHS ward and theatre as part of a new drive to improve cleanliness in the health service, HSJ can reveal.

All patient-facing areas must display star ratings with grades 0 to 5 to show chiefs’ assessments of the quality of cleaning, under plans drawn up by NHS Improvement.

It is estimated the NHS cleans at least 24 million square metres every day, which is equal to around 3,360 football pitches or 40 per cent of the total area of San Marino.

One source, who did not want to be named, likened the requirement to the “food hygiene ratings” used in restaurants and cafes. 

Patient-facing areas, such as wards and theatres, are currently required to display a percentage score for cleanliness, with 85 per cent considered to be good. The star ratings are being introduced because it is thought this will be easier for patients to understand.

An NHSI spokeswoman told HSJ that trusts themselves will be responsible for making sure the ratings are displayed. The ratings will be dated and valid until the next scheduled audit, which will vary depending on the area.

But external inspections will be carried out at least once a year to check trusts are complying with the new rules.

“The results need to be transparent because patients care about cleaning standards in hospitals,” the spokeswoman said.

The scheme is part of an overhaul of the NHS’ cleaning standards. The guidance currently in place was last updated in 2014.

Since then, the number of reported infections of C difficile and MRSA has remained fairly stable, while rates of E coli have increased (predominantly in the community) by 14.6 per cent, according to Nuffield Trust analysis.

MRSA, C difficile and E coli are the three most common healthcare-associated infections and can all pose a serious risk to patients, staff and visitors.

The new guidance covers acute, community, mental health, ambulance, primary care and private sector providers.

According to NHSI, it will provide “much greater flexibility” for how to clean different areas of a trust’s estate.

For example, it is unnecessary to clean areas of a mental health facility as often as a ward where infectious patients are treated.

The standards, which were drawn up by NHSI together with industry experts, have been piloted across 30 NHS organisations in England and Wales. NHSI told delegates at the annual conference of the Health Estates and Facilities Management Association last month that all trusts can comment on the proposed standards over the summer.

A final version of the standards is due to be released by September.

HSJ approached the Infection Prevention Society and the Association of Healthcare Cleaning Professionals for comment, but both declined.