Hospital cleanliness

We examine results from the Adult Inpatient Survey and Coronavirus Inpatient Experience Survey, looking at hospital room and ward cleanliness.


Last updated: 21/10/2021

Hospital care


Across the NHS, cleanliness is a vital part of ensuring safe, high-quality care. Failure to meet the required standards could lead to the spread of infections, ward closures and potentially impact the health of patients and staff, as well as affecting patient experience. The Adult Inpatient Survey and the Coronavirus (Covid-19) Inpatient Experience Survey ask patients in England for their opinion on the cleanliness of the hospital room or ward that they were in.

Public Health England published guidance on protecting healthcare workers and patients from contracting Covid-19. This outlines the benefits of social distancing, hand hygiene, surface decontamination and appropriate use of personal protective equipment (PPE) in hospital settings.

How have opinions on the cleanliness of hospital rooms and wards changed over time? 21/10/2021

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* Data for 2020 is not comparable to the results from previous years.

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Adult Inpatient Survey respondents are asked, “In your opinion, how clean was the hospital room or ward that you were in?”. Between 2009 and 2015, the proportion of respondents who said that their room or ward was ‘very clean’ increased from 63% to 70%, then remained constant until 2017 before decreasing slightly to 69% in 2019. The proportion who said that their room was ‘not very clean’ or ‘not at all clean’ decreased slightly from 4% in 2009 to 3% in 2019. This indicates that there had been meaningful positive change in hospital ward cleanliness over time, but that there was still room for improvement.

The Coronavirus Inpatient Experience Survey received feedback from people who were discharged from hospital between 1 April and 31 May 2020, while the UK was in a national lockdown. The survey asked, “How clean was the hospital room or ward that you were in?”. Four in five patients rated it as ‘very clean’, which may reflect the enhanced infection prevention and control (IPC) procedures that were introduced during the coronavirus pandemic. Covid-19 patients were slightly less positive, with 75% rating their room or ward as ‘very clean’ compared to 80% of patients without a Covid-19 diagnosis (data not shown).

About this data

This indicator draws on data from the Adult Inpatient Survey (years 2009 to 2019) and the 2020 Coronavirus Inpatient Experience Survey. Note that data for 2020 is not comparable to the results from previous years.

Adult Inpatient Survey

For the 2019 Adult Inpatient Survey, patients aged 16 and over were eligible if they had stayed overnight in an NHS hospital during July 2019 (except in a few cases where hospitals with small numbers of patients had to sample for longer). Fieldwork for the survey (the time during which questionnaires were sent out and returned) took place between August 2019 and January 2020.

In order to be able to compare national data between years, the data was manipulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in two ways:

  • Weights were applied to the data to account for the fact that some trusts have a higher response rate than others, and would therefore have a greater influence over the average if a simple mean was calculated across all respondents. 
  • A further weight was applied to account for the differences in demographics between those who responded and the eligible population. 

A combination of these two weights resulted in one single weighting, which was applied to most of the questions to enable comparisons between years.

For more information, please see the 2019 Adult Inpatient Survey: Quality and Methodology Report.

Coronavirus (Covid-19) Experience Survey

The survey received feedback from 10,336 people who had received inpatient care in an NHS hospital and were discharged between 1 April and 31 May 2020. The data was collected between 14 August and 9 September 2020. The survey captured views on cleanliness in hospital, and also infection control measures and perceived safety from contracting Covid-19 while in hospital.

For more information, please see the published report findings on infection prevention and control.