FOOD quality, ward cleanliness, and the privacy and dignity of patients at the county’s hospitals are to be put under the microscope - by the very people who are - or could be - patients.

The volunteers will carry out spot checks on the hospitals as part of a central-government initiative to drive improvements to hospital environments. At least some of those carrying out the unannounced assessments will be patients, and the findings will be publicised.

“This is an exciting opportunity for local people to play a key role in making sure we maintain high standards for our patients,” said Director of Nursing and Quality at Wye Valley NHS Trust, Michelle Clarke.

In Herefordshire, the assessment covers The County Hospital, the community hospitals at Ross-on-Wye, Leominster and Bromyard and Hereford’s Hillside intermediate care centre.

The inspections are due to begin soon, although no date can be given as they are unannounced.

"Guidance will be given to the assessors, they are not there to comment on the quality of clinical or medical treatment, but are there to gain a general impression of the hospital,” said Michelle.

Current hospital staff, and those who have worked for the hospital in the last two years, cannot become members of the inspection teams.

However, representatives from voluntary sector groups and the newly formed health watchdog Healthwatch, are welcome to become assessors along with members of the public.

• Anyone interested in becoming an assessor should contact Linda Ward at the County Hospital on 01432 364005 or email Linda: