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Mr. Hopkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to increase the number of cleaning staff employed by the NHS. 
Ms Blears [holding answer 13 March 2002]: We recognise that the standard of cleanliness in our hospitals is important to patients, their relatives, staff and the public. The investment we have made since the publication of the NHS Plan has seen standards raised across the board. The implementation of the Patient Environment Action Team programme has ensured that this issue remains high on trusts' agendas and a further round of unannounced inspections is currently under way to ensure that the progress made has been maintained and, where necessary, built upon.
As announced in the NHS Plan, there is now a national standard of cleanliness for the NHS which all trusts with in-patient beds are required to report against as part of the performance assessment framework. This means that for the first time there is a comprehensive standard for the whole NHS which is outcome-based and measures what is, or is not, clean. NHS trusts will need to employ sufficient staff to ensure that these standards are met, or to adjust cleaning contracts accordingly.
The responsibility for ensuring wards are clean has been restored to ward sisters, with the support of modern matrons, and they have also been given the authority to withhold payment where the required standards are not met.
The NHS Plan also set a target for ward-housekeepers to be in place in 50 per cent. of hospitals by 2004. The duties of the ward house-keeper will include working alongside cleaning staff, who may be directly or indirectly employed, to ensure that ward environments are clean, tidy and well maintained and they will report to ward sisters. Already 41 per cent. of trusts have started to introduce ward-housekeepers.
Attracting staff to work in the NHS requires there to be career opportunities and pathways which are attractive and flexible. The introduction of the ward-housekeeper role provides a further pathway for staff, who may enter the NHS as cleaners, to develop their skills and continue their career in the NHS.
Mr. Hopkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many cleaners are employed by private contractors providing services to the NHS. 
Ms Blears [holding answer 13 March 2002]: The information requested is not collected centrally.
"The National Standards of Cleanliness for the National Health Service" was published in April 2001, and all trusts are required to ensure that these standards are implemented from this year. NHS trusts will need to ensure that cleaning contracts are adjusted to take account of these standards.
The national standards have been developed to ensure that all trusts with in-patient beds apply the same standards of cleanliness regardless of who provides the cleaning services.
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Mr. Hopkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many cleaners were employed by the NHS in each of the past 20 years. 
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Ms Blears [holding answer 13 March 2002]: The information requested is not available. The statistics collected in this area by the Department relate to all ancillary staffs and it is not possible to distinguish the numbers of cleaning staff.