Hospital chiefs have admitted it was "embarrassing" that inspectors found days of dust and dirt under the beds of patients and overflowing bins, but pledged last night to improve.
The bosses of the Great Western Hospital in Swindon said they were already working on a plan to improve cleanliness in the wards after a damning report from the Care Quality Commission.
It was the third time in less than a year that CQC inspectors had descended on the hospital, one of the biggest in the West. A routine inspection in January 2013 found issues that needed improving. Another inspection in July found more problems, and when the inspectors returned in October, they found cleanliness on a number of wards was 'unacceptable'.
One inspector wrote in the report that some wards were "absolutely disgusting".
In fact, the hospital failed three of the five basic tests the inspectors have – although the two it did pass were the most important ones.
The report reveals the GWH meets the standards required of treating people with respect and involving them in their care, and also meets the standards of providing care, treatment and support that meets people's needs.
But it failed the standard of caring for people safely and protecting them from harm – because the cleanliness issue meant the hospital is at risk of infection – and also failed a fourth standard of keeping staffing levels up, and a final standard of quality and suitability of management.
The hospital is a PFI-run one, with cleaning undertaken not by NHS employees but by the logistics firm Carillion, which had been embroiled in an industrial dispute with its hospital staff for more than a year.
Bosses at the GWH described the latest, and most damning, report as a 'wake-up call', and pledged to act to rectify the issues. The hospital's chief nurse, Hilary Walker, said they were expecting to fail the staffing levels standard – recruiting enough nurses was a nationwide problem that affected the GWH badly – but it was 'embarrassing' to fail the cleanliness one.
"I am pleased that staff have been recognised for their kindness, compassion and professionalism," she said.
"Of the 1.5 million patients we care for every year, the vast majority tell us they are pleased with their care and this inspection confirms that we get it right for most patients, caring for patients with privacy, dignity and respect.
"The inspection also shows that we need to make improvements to cleanliness and staffing, which is exactly what we are doing."