Published: 11/11/2004, Volume II4, No. 5931 Page 7

Hospitals will have to halve MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) infections by 2008 and demonstrate significant improvements year on year, the health secretary has announced.

Unveiling what he admitted was an 'extremely challenging' target, John Reid said acute trusts would have to draw up action plans to prevent or isolate the infection.

And trusts learned that all hospital staff except doctors will be given training on dealing with MRSA.

Mr Reid told the chief nursing officer's annual conference in Manchester that trusts would have to prove they had identified highrisk sources of infection as part of comprehensive action plans.

'Hospital cleaners are as important as consultants when it comes to these issues, ' he said.

The Healthcare Commission will monitor the implementation of the target.And it plans to carry out reviews on cleanliness and healthcare-acquired infection with a view to identifying good practice.

Chief nursing officer Chris Beasley told the conference that staff covered by Agenda for Change would receive infection control training through the knowledge and skills framework, through which pay rates are set.

'All staff covered by Agenda for Change must show that they can develop and apply the appropriate knowledge and skills to reduce the risks of healthcare-associated infections, ' she said.

She added the government was considering sending in 'mystery shoppers' to check on hospital cleanliness.