Howard attacks Blair on MRSA

Howard attacks Blair on MRSA
Howard attacks Blair on MRSA

The Conservative Party leader has claimed that Government policies have actually made the problems of MRSA in the UK worse.

Michael Howard's comments come in response to this morning's National Audit Office (NAO) report into "super bug" infection rates in the NHS.

Recorded infections are up by eight per cent in the last four years, and the NAO warned that the "NHS still does not have a proper grasp of the extent and cost of hospital-acquired infection in trusts."

The Department of Health is, however, praised for raising the profile and awareness of MRSA, but the NAO warns that too many staff seem to regard infection control as a problem for specialist teams not for them.

Attacking the Prime Minister at Prime Minister's Question Time in the Commons this lunchtime, Mr Howard said that the Government had failed to act on the problem. Quoting hospital trusts' submissions to the NAO report as saying that Government targets have made tackling the problem more difficult, Mr Howard called on Tony Blair to end the culture of targets in the NHS.

Mr Blair said that he recognised that MRSA is a "serious problem and we are committed to tackling it".

He emphasised that there was no mandatory reporting of MRSA until Labour came to power, and said targets are important to ensure patient treatment.

Under Labour, Mr Blair said, funding and capacity would be increased in hospitals to ensure that treatment is better for all- rather than subsidising the private sector as he accused the Conservatives of proposing.

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy also chose to attack the Prime Minister on MRSA, asking why, after seven years of increasing rates, the Government's response is to "set yet another target?"

Cleanliness in hospitals "should be taken as read by patients when they cross the front door" rather than being a target, Mr Kennedy concluded.