A ward at the Royal Victoria Hospital has been closed following concerns over its cleanliness.
Ward 4F in the hospital’s neurosurgical area was shut after an inspection by the Regulation Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) found that it fell short of the "required standard of cleanliness", it emerged last night.
The Belfast Health Trust closed the ward for refurbishment after the RQIA, the independent body responsible for monitoring and inspecting health and social care services in Northern Ireland, wrote to it seeking immediate action.
Among the areas which would have been covered by the inspection were the handling of clinical waste, laundry, hand hygiene and the cleaning and storing of equipment.
A spokesman for the RQIA said its hygiene team had inspected the ward at the end of May.
"Our inspection team found that the ward fell short of the required standard of cleanliness," he said. "RQIA wrote to the Trust's chief executive asking that he takes immediate steps to improve the situation on this ward.
"The RQIA has now been advised that the Belfast Trust has now closed the ward for refurbishment.
"The Trust has also provided an action plan outlining how it intends to improve hygiene on this ward. The RQIA will be issuing a full report of the findings of the inspection to the Trust shortly, and this will be published later in the year."
A spokesman for the Belfast Health Trust said that refurbishment work was being carried out on the neurological ward "as agreed with the RQIA".
South Belfast MLA Carmel Hanna, a former nurse, said: "I think it is right that the RQIA are proactive, particularly in areas where we have acutely ill patients.
"Cleanliness levels need to be monitored regularly. It is a life and death situation so it is very important they are up to standard."