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   Inside Out - Yorkshire & Lincolnshire: Monday February 14, 2005

HOTEL NOT-SO-GRAND

The Grand Hotel in Scarborough
The Grand Hotel has come under fire for its standards of hygiene

The Grand Hotel in Scarborough used to be one of the best in Europe.

Inside Out goes undercover to investigate a hotel which could be bad for your health.

For nearly 150 years, the Grand Hotel has towered over Scarborough's seafront.

It used to be the biggest hotel in Europe, with 12 floors and 365 rooms - one for every day of the year.

But it seems the Grand is starting to show its age.

Going undercover

Presenter Morland Sanders poses as a guest to get the inside track on the hotel's slipping standards.

Armed with a hidden camera, he scours the hotel for signs of disrepair.

Accompanying him is top microbiologist Jim Francis, who has tested many hotels and other facilities for hygiene standards.

He immediately points out signs of dust, damp and mould, but it's the hidden dangers lurking in dark corners that are causing the problem.

Jim Francis pointing to stained toilet
The blacklight test shows stains invisible to the naked eye

Having checked into two separate hotel rooms, Jim and Morland don their white coats and gloves and set about their inspection.

A quick look under the bed reveals several months' worth of dust and Jim even finds a large human toenail clipping lurking behind the bedside drawer.

And the blacklight test shows the bathroom is even worse.

Jim examines the toilet using ultraviolet light to spot contamination marks not visible to the naked eye.

And even he was shocked at the results.

He explains, "The things to look out for are things like the yellowy-green stains on the toilet pedestal there - that's just terrible."

It seems that there are some signs of cleaning having taken place, but these are nowhere near an acceptable standard.

This is almost as bad as total neglect, as Jim points out:

"It makes it worse to see that someone's actually made an effort to clean it and just done a bad job.

"You have got to pay attention here - this is an area of high-risk.

"It's horrendous - there are urine stains and I shudder to think what the brown stains are. I don't think I've seen one this bad before - it's just filthy."

Jim is absolutely horrified.

The wonder of science

Next up is the swab test, which involves Jim collecting samples taken from everyday surfaces like the door handles to see if bacteria is being moved around.

And the results aren't pretty.

The samples are analysed at Kingmoor Technical Services Ltd. in Carlisle, where Jim examined the swabs for evidence of bacterial infestation.

Of 12 swabs taken in each room, 50 and 75 per cent respectively failed Jim's hygiene tests.

He explains, "To put it into context, I've never seen microbe results like this in my whole career and in any of the hotel rooms I've ever done."

Jim Francis and Morland Sanders with hotel food
Jim and Morland check out room service

The laboratory tests identified traces of eight different types of bacteria, including e.coli and staphylococcus aureus, which can cause severe stomach upsets.

And things are about to get even worse, as Jim and Morland order room service and snacks - not to eat, but to test for the same bacteria found in their hotel rooms.

The results are every bit as shocking as the swab tests, as Jim explains:

"The hot food was generally OK but the cold food was absolutely terrible.

"We bought a salad which had a total of around three million living bacteria (compared with a normal total of around 10,000)."

Jim's swab tests also find around 1/2 a million bacteria in the hotel's coleslaw and the same amount, which is 50 times higher than the 'acceptable' level, in a chocolate éclair.

Traces of e.coli are also found in the hotel's vegetable quiche.

The summary of results show that 64% of the food samples taken fail the lab's hygiene tests, while 18% are in the 'warning' range.

Only two of the 11 samples taken pass the test, which, according to the laboratory, is cause for concern.

Health hazard

Jim Francis taking swab test on door handle
Jim Francis takes swab tests to check for bacteria in the room

Inside Out speaks to someone who has worked at the hotel who explains that the poor standards of hygiene were down to staff shortages, not negligence.

"It's a big hotel and we always seem to have a staff problem.

"There are an awful lot of rooms to clean, so we tend sometimes to cut corners and do things quickly instead of thoroughly."

Things have got so bad that some guests are even turning up at the hotel armed with their own cleaning products, as the hotel worker explains:

"It has had national coverage so when guests arrive they do know about it - they have even brought their own materials to clean the toilets themselves."

And Jim's verdict?

"If you are paying for a room you should get a lot better than what we have got here, neither room has been what I would call a respectable standard.

"It is without doubt the worst hotel I've ever visited and inspected."

"I wouldn't stay here."

Right to reply

In response to Inside Out's investigations, the Grand Hotel's owners, Britannia Hotels, issued the following statement:

"We have only effectively been provided today with details of the testing carried out on behalf of the BBC and we will take all necessary action to address any issues that are raised.

"The hotel was purchased at the end of last year. It suffered an outbreak of the Norwalk Virus. This is an airborne virus which was introduced into the hotel by a member of the public and does not relate to the cleanliness of the hotel.

"We immediately took the voluntary step of closing down the hotel and disinfecting the whole building."

The statement said North Yorkshire Communicable Disease unit had said the virus was an airborne infection and hotel managers had done everything in their power to prevent the spread of the infection.

It also stated that Scarborough environmental health department had said this was a problem suffered by any large establishment, including hospitals.

"A multi-million pound refurbishment programme has been started at the hotel. Health and hygiene for our guests and staff are of paramount importance.

"We have served over 28,000 meals since the start of the new year and there have been no incidents of food poisoning."

See also ...

Inside Out: Yorkshire & Lincolnshire
Reincarnation

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Health

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The Grand Hotel

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Readers' Comments

We are not adding any new comments to this page but you can still read some of the comments previously submitted by readers.

J Eaden
A few years ago i took a job working at the Grand Hotel and frankly none of the Inside Out report suprises me. Many things i saw there were utterly inexcusable and shameful ie. serving leftovers from the day before/beds infested with fleas/pigeon faeces within dining areas. The one thing i do find amazing is the fact that the godforsaken place hasn't been shut down because the hotel remains a serious health hazard. Leaving that job was a relief.

R Haig
Quite sad really as we like staying there. My wife & I have stayed at the Hotel several times in the past and whereas certain rooms weren't very good, we have not had any illness. The entertainment is first class. A bit puzzelled Mr Sayers about the Norwark being an 'air borne' virus as elsewhere on 'medical' websites it seems to be spread via 'toilet' type activities (I don't want to be too precise). Can you enlighten me as I have no medical/health knowledge. Thanks.

Richard Groke
I stayed at the Grand Hotel on Tuesday 15th - the day after the report. Whilst the room appeared to be clean there was a generaly atmosphere of deterioration and lack of investment. I understand the maintenance and other costs of such a building must be horrific, but there was evidence that a program of improvements was underway (i.e. new fire alarm systems). However this is no excuse for urine stains on toilets and nasties in the coleslaw. I sincerely hope the new owners look upon this report constructively and act to make amends as soon as possible.

LINDA ALDER
WE STAYED AT THE GRAND SCARBOROUGH ON THE 4TH - 6TH FEBRUARY THIS YEAR AND WERE VERY DISAPOINTED BY THE STANDARD OF THE HOTEL. THE ROOM SERVICE WAS NOT UP TO SCRATCH , I.E BEDS WERE MADE WHILE WE WERE OUT BUT THE WASTE BIN WAS NOT EMPTIED EACH DAY AND RUBBISH HAD BEEN LEFT ON THE FLOOR. THE MEALS WERE SERVED ON 2 SITTINGS AND WE WERE NOT GIVEN A CHOICE OF WHICH SITTING WE WANTED. THE FOOD ITSELF WAS NOT HOT IN FACT SOUP WAS COLD AND A POT OF TEA UNDRINKABLE. WE ASKED FOR IT TO BE REPLACED AND THEY SIMPLY FORGOT ABOUT US. THE TABLES WERE NOT COMPLETLY SET. WE ASKED FOR A GLASS FOR THE WATER AND THE WAITRESS TOOK ONE FROM THE NEXT TABLE WHICH HAD BEEN USED BY DINERS (ALTHOUGH THE GLASS WAS DOWNTURNED IT MAY HAVE BEEN USED)AND WE WENT TO GET ONE OURSELVES FROM THE SERVICE TABLE. aT DINNER THE WINE WAITER COMPLEELY MISSED US . oN THE FIRST MORNING AFTER BREAKFAST WE FILLED IN A COMPLAINT FORM AND HANDED IT IN AT THE DESK TO NO REACTION. ON THE SECOND DAY AS WE LEFT WE LEFT HANDED IN OUR OWN DIARY OF COMPLAINTS AND ON RETURNING HOME WE SENT AN E-MAIL TO THE BRITANNIA GROUP. WE HAVE STILL NOT RECEIVED A REPLY OR EVEN ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO THIS. WE SHALL NEVER STAY THERE AGAIN.

D Sayers
In many respects this programme was useful in informing the public of how microbial contamination can so easily be spread and the importance for hygiene. Also, highlighting the problems found with the food was important and something that was clearly a hazard to the hotel guests. However, I found it absurd that the recent Norwalk outbreak at the hotel was referred to several times but the expert microbiologist never cleared up the fact that this is an airborne virus that can be very quickly spread anywhere, regardless of the cleanliness. This was left to the statement from the lawyers at the end - many viewers would likely hold the views of your microbiologist with greater regard than the hotel's lawyers and I felt this led to some bias from the programme. Also, there was no comparison with any other hotels. Mr Francis may have inspected many other hotels but it would have been useful (and fairer) to have taken swabs from toilet door handles etc from other establishments too as, in my professional experience, the majority of toilets in hotels and catering premises have high microbial counts in such areas. All in all I felt the programme misled viewers into believing the grand hotel was a serious hazard to health and was much worse than the majority of other, similar establishments without clearly explaining that the hygiene had little, if any, relevance in the virus outbreak and that the food (which took the back seat in the investigation) was the only real concern for health.



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