Minimising hospital-acquired infections should be the responsibility of managers, junior health minister Lord Darzi has told the Commons health select committee.
At a one-off hearing to discuss his interim report on the review of the NHS, Lord Darzi said managers should 'focus the mind' on responsibility for tackling infections.
Asked whether financial targets were to blame for high rates of infections such as the outbreaks in Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells, he said: 'I do not believe it's financial pressure, I believe it's a leadership issue.' In a complex system such as the NHS, there should be 'a collective accountability for the infection', he added.
NHS chief executive David Nicholson told the committee: 'Their first priority is the quality of service and safety of their patients. We have made that absolutely clear to all chief executives.'
Asked what mistakes he felt had been made in the health service over the last 10 years, Lord Darzi said he felt policies had been correct but not implemented quickly enough.
Asked whether the polyclinics he proposed for London would be public-private partnerships, Lord Darzi said they could follow a number of models, including local improvement finance trust schemes or groups of GPs working together. He said primary care trusts often did not have the management skills to set up new centres and might need to work with the private or third sectors.