Hygiene standards put in place to reduce hospital infections are not being met by 90% of acute health care trusts, according to results of spot checks.
The Healthcare Commission found that only five trusts out of 51 adhered to Government rules after unannounced inspections.
While most of the failures did not pose an immediate risk to patient safety, the Commission found that almost all acute trusts had work to do to control the spread of infection.
In areas where breaches did cause a serious risk, managers were told to take immediate action.
The Commission found that just over half of the 51 trusts failed to keep all areas clean and well-maintained.
However, it said most had improved in relation to leadership and ensuring uniforms were clean and fit for purpose.
Chief executive Anna Walker said the challenge for trusts is to ensure the right systems are in place all of the time.
“In particular, trusts need to ensure that their wards are consistently clean and well maintained, and that they have good decontamination and isolation arrangements,” she added.
From April 2009 the new Care Quality Commission will be able to impose fines on trusts that do not meet hygiene rules.
Copyright Press Association 2008