ELECTION Shadow health secretary calls for more power for infection control teams

Published: 14/04/2005, Volume II5, No. 5951 Page 8

Infection control teams should have the power to overrule managers if they believe a ward should be closed after a infection outbreak, Conservative health spokesman Andrew Lansley has said.

'Infection control teams should not be overridden by managers keen to meet targets, ' he told a hustings event at the King's Fund last week.

And he said matrons should be put in charge of cleaning and given the power to withhold payments if cleaning is not up to scratch.

The shadow health secretary quoted a National Audit Office report which showed that managers rejected 12 per cent of recommendations by infection control teams that wards should be closed.

Health minister John Hutton said the government had followed the best scientific advice in its dealings with healthcare-acquired infections.

He said it was not just managers who decide not to close wards.

'Management is not just about bureaucrats as clinicians are involved in many of these management decisions, ' he said.

But Mr Lansley said he knew the names of hospitals where infected wards stayed open after a recommendation to close. 'I have not named these hospitals because it would not be fair to turn them into a cause célÞbre, ' he said.

Mr Lansley spoke as Conservative leader Michael Howard unveiled a 10-point plan to stamp out MRSA.

It would see all wards having access to 24-hour cleaning, clean beds and increased hygiene.

Cleaner hospitals was also one of the five main pledges contained in the Conservative manifesto, launched on Monday.

At the hustings event Mr Lansley rejected Labour and Liberal Democrat claims that the Conservatives had contributed to the phenomenon of dirty hospitals by introducing compulsory competitive tendering on cleaning contracts in 1988.

'Contracts are not the issue. The issue is who enforces them; the issue is matrons and whether they can ensure that contracts are met, or payments withheld.' But Liberal Democrat health spokesman Paul Burstow said: 'The Conservatives have fragmented control over cleaning by introducing compulsory competitive tendering.'