Nurses are being forced to clean toilets and mop hospital floors on top of their patient care duties, a new survey has found.
More than half of NHS nurses believed cleaning services for their ward were inadequate, while around a fifth said their hospital trust had made cuts to cleaning services in the last year.
The survey of 1,000 nurses and health assistants revealed a third had cleaned toilets or mopped floors in the last year. Some also reported cleaning corridors, computers, nursing stations and offices, according to the Nursing Times, which conducted the survey.
Two-fifths of nurses said they had cleaned a bed area or single room following the discharge of an infectious patient, while 81% had cleaned up after the discharge of a non-infectious patient. Almost three-quarters said they had not received training for these cleaning practices.
Meanwhile, 37% of nurses admitted their trust would not close a bed to patients even though it had not been cleaned properly.
Rose Gallagher, the Royal College of Nursing's adviser on infection prevention and control, told the Nursing Times: "This is not about saying nurses are too posh to wash. Cleaning in hospitals is not the same as cleaning your own home."
A new specification on cleaning in hospitals was published last year by the Department of Health, National Patient Safety Agency and the British Standards Institution. However, the new guidelines did not specify the appropriate cleaning duties for nurses.
Tracey Cooper, president of the Infection Prevention Society, said: "Nurses are the guardians of the standards of their wards. Cleaning has always been an integral part of what nurses do. The risk comes when there is a lack of clarity about process and who is responsible because then you get things that nobody cleans."
Andrew Jones, president of the Association of Healthcare Cleaning Professionals, said it was "inevitable" that nurses would end up doing some cleaning of patient areas during out-of-hour periods. He told the Nursing Times that the best practice for hospital wards was to have a dedicated cleaner.
Mr Jones added: "When that happens we get better cleanliness standards and a better motivated workforce. Some of the responses would suggest that's not the case as often as we would want."