Infection prevention and control

Page last updated: 12 May 2022

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

The survey captured views on general cleanliness in hospital, but also infection control measures and perceived safety from contracting COVID-19 while in hospital.

Patients who were in hospital during the pandemic reported high levels of cleanliness and visible infection control measures. Despite this, a minority of patients were concerned about catching COVID-19 during their inpatient stay.

Cleanliness of hospital room or ward

When asked to give their opinion on the cleanliness of the hospital room or ward they were in, four in five patients (80%) rated it as ‘very clean’.

COVID-19 patients were slightly less positive, with three quarters rating their room or ward as ‘very clean’ (75%, as opposed to 80% among those without a COVID-19 diagnosis).

COVID-19 safety measures

The vast majority of patients said that they saw a number of COVID-19 safety measures in place while in hospital, including ‘staff wearing personal protective equipment (PPE)’ (94%), ‘handwashing with hand sanitiser or soap’ (94%), and the ‘provision of waste bins’ (91%).

However, fewer patients recalled seeing ‘social distancing measures’ (such as markers on the floor or signage at the entrance) in place (65%).

Whether patients remembered seeing these measures in place was mostly consistent between patients who had COVID-19 and those who did not, but COVID-19 patients were significantly less likely to have been aware of social distancing measures (61% versus 66% non-COVID patients) and more likely to have seen staff wearing PPE (96% and 93% respectively).

Safety from the risk of catching COVID-19 while in hospital

During the months covered by the survey, hospitals were still admitting patients for reasons other than COVID-19. All patients responding to the survey who did not have a COVID-19 diagnosis on admission were asked about their perceptions of the risk of catching the virus during their stay. This included some patients who were subsequently diagnosed with it while in hospital. Over four in five patients (83%) said they felt ‘safe’ from the risk of catching COVID-19 while in hospital, including 52% who felt ‘very safe’. Eight per cent felt ‘unsafe’ – this increased to 17% among patients who went on to receive a COVID-19 diagnosis while in hospital.

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