Epsom and St Helier trust has defended results of a survey which found that four out of 10 staff couldn't always find hand washing material and a third witnessed mistakes, near misses or incidents the previous month.

The Department of Health's staff survey is conducted annually to discover how NHS employees feel about their work.

The 2013 survey's results for the trust, based on feedback from 2,000 staff - a 52 per cent response rate, were published last month.

The trust said it was delighted with the survey’s results as it received better scores in 11 of the survey’s questions compared to last year, with scores remaining the same in 17 questions and no scores deteriorating.

Following last year’s survey, it put in place a three-year action plan to develop and protect certain areas, but admitted there was still room for improvement on this year’s results.

Just 59 per cent of staff in this year's survey said hand-washing materials were always available - despite the fact that a year ago the trust was facing a £4.8m fine for failing to hit its target for c-dificile infections, prompting a major drive to improve hygiene and cleaning standards as well as antibiotic prescribing.

A trust spokeswoman said: "This is an improvement on last year and higher than the national average but we recognise we’d like to see a higher percentage."

There was no reduction in the number of staff witnessing potentially harmful errors, near misses or incidents in the last month - which remained at 32 per cent, with 91 per cent reporting them when they occur, a one per cent increase on last year.

The trust spokeswoman said: "We encourage our staff to report all untoward errors and incidents and encourage openness and transparency and an environment where they are comfortable to do so. 

"How we manage and feedback on incidents to optimise learning has been reviewed and the trust is in the process of implementing a new IT system to help us do this."

Just 31 per cent of staff reported good communication between senior management and staff, although it was lower last year at 28 per cent. 

A trust spokeswoman said: "Unfortunately the best score for acute trusts was 44 per cent.  We are pleased with the improvement but we want to see further improvement."

The trust said it was pleased that the percentage of staff experiencing harassment, bullying or abuse from other members of staff in the last 12 months dropped five per cent from last year to 25 per cent, which is the national average, but will continue to implement its harassment and bullying policy. 

The survey found that 91 per cent of staff believe their role makes a difference to patients and 82 per cent felt satisfied with the quality of their work and the patient care they are able to deliver - a figure which puts the trust in the top 20 per cent of all hospitals in the country on this measure.  

70 per cent also felt able to contribute towards improvements.

Matthew Hopkins, the trust’s chief executive, said: "Every day, I see our staff working tirelessly for the benefit of our patients and know they regularly go above and beyond the call of duty.

"Whilst we are of course pleased with the vast majority of the survey's results, there are areas where we could improve."

To see the full results click here