Spot checks for hospitals with poor hygiene records

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Spot checks are to be made this summer in 100 hospitals across the NHS by a public health watchdog to tackle growing fears of hospital superbugs.

Spot checks are to be made this summer in 100 hospitals across the NHS by a public health watchdog to tackle growing fears of hospital superbugs.

The Healthcare Commission, the main NHS inspection body, said last night that it would be making the checks unannounced in a crackdown on falling hygiene standards.

The checks were ordered after the disclosure by The Independent that a new strain of clostridium difficile had been discovered and could have been responsible for 12 deaths and 300 infected at the Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire since 2003. The hospital-acquired infection MRSA has also been blamed for causing hundreds of deaths.

The review will target hospitals that have poor hygiene records, but it will also visit high-performing hospitals to try to discover why some hospitals have a higher incidence of the potentially fatal diseases than others.

The inspection will be made by a team of Healthcare Commission experts. "The audit will provide a snapshot of the state of hospital cleanliness in the country," said a spokesman for the commission.

Healthcare Commission chief executive Anna Walker said: "Patients and the public tell us they are concerned about cleanliness. There is a real danger that this issue could damage confidence in healthcare.

"But there is a shortage of facts and this exercise is about getting those facts.

"That is why we will be sending in our inspectors over the summer. Our aim is learn from best practice and challenge bad practice."

Meanwhile, Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer, is pressing for a ban on all smoking in pubs, bars and clubs.

John Reid, the former health secretary, who quit smoking, has said bars that did not serve food should be excluded from the ban.

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