The Government has admitted that only 50 hospital trusts have started “deep cleans” to prevent the spread of pathogens.
Health Secretary Alan Johnson made the announcement despite ministers promising that all 1,500 hospitals in around 170 trusts in England will have completed the process by the end of March.
The plans were widely criticised by opposition parties as a gimmick when they were first unveiled by Prime Minister Gordon Brown at the Labour Party conference back in September.
Some doctors believe the cleaning schedule will have little effect on the spread of infections, while it also requires significant amounts of staff time and disruption.
The Conservatives also claim that because the process is being monitored locally rather than centrally, it means it is not a serious attempt to tackle problems such as MRSA.
Mr Johnson told the BBC he does not keep a “running total” of how many hospitals have started the cleaning programme, but insisted he is confident the deadline will be met.
“As far as I am aware the process is well under way. We expected every hospital to have carried out the deep clean by the end of March.”
He added: “Roughly we are into the first 50 that have been under way so far.”
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