NHS hospitals are getting dirtier despite promises, claimed patients in a survey despite the government promises to tackle the dirty wards.
The annual NHS patients survey has found high levels of general satisfaction with the health service. But, when more specific questions were asked of the 80,000 people who took part a different picture emerged. Only about 52% claimed that their ward ha been 'very clean' as compared to 56% in 2002. While at least 51% said that their lavatories were 'very clean' in 2002 the figures sharply fell to less than half, about 46% in the current statistics.
The survey further showed that almost 40% of patients who needed help with eating meals did not get it and nearly one in five said they never received any help. The polls showed that only 60% felt that there were enough or nearly enough nurses around. The poll also showed that while the condition in other areas were deterioting the general feelings about the food served there was the same, with 54% saying that it was good or very good, while a third felt it was fair and 15% claiming it was poor.
Another area of growing concern reported in the poll was that, with the current trend of patients spending lesser time recovering in hospital after surgery, they felt that there is a lack of information they received before they were discharged. It showed that almost two fifth received no information about side effects of their drugs, 40% were given no information about "danger signals" after surgery and a quarter were given no contact number in case they were worried on their return home. In accident and emergency departments a quarter, compared with a third in 2002, waited more than four hours before being given a bed.
But almost, 92% rated the overall care as "excellent", "very good" or "good" and 80% to have been treated with dignity. Ms Anna Walker, the chief executive of the Government watchdog, the Healthcare Commission, which commissioned the survey, said hospital staff should be happy by the fact that patients rated their care so highly. But she also cautioned that the patients are sending a clear message that there is more work to be done and the staff cannot sit on their laurels. She said that it was important to provide information in the right format, in the right time, regarding their health and status, which she explained would be very crucial for their speedy recovery.
A spokesman for the Patients Association said these findings on cleanliness were of no surprise as she claimed they have been hearing from the staff that the cleaning services were being reduced drastically. She pointed out that as always, when trusts start to face deficits they tend to downsize from the bottom, o porters, cleaners would have to go first. She further pointed out that just leaflets were not enough to educate patients and that NHS had to put in more efforts.
Stating that it is well known that now day's patients are spending lesser time at the hospitals she explained that it was necessary for the NHS to set up community services to help educate the patients after discharge. She explained that it was important for the patient to know about the healing process and what to expect in a week, two weeks and so on.
Dr Gill Morgan, the chief executive of the NHS Confederation which represents more than 90 per cent of NHS organisations, said: 'Cleanliness is clearly an issue of concern for many of the patients surveyed.' He explained that this is an area that trusts are very aware of and are hence working hard to ensure that first-rate cleanliness and infection control is achieved.