The NHS will not have the information required to get a grip on hospital-acquired infection until 2005, according to the House of Commons public accounts committee.

Such infections kill an estimated 5,000 people a year and cost the NHS£1bn, according to a report by the committee published last week. It says between 50 and 70 per cent of wound infection occurs at home and recommends better follow-up and monitoring after discharge through the national surveillance scheme. It also recommends that the scheme becomes mandatory for trusts. It was set up in 1999 and has just 139 members.

The committee says effective implementation of the controls assurance system should help to achieve NHS Executive plans to cut infection rates by 15 per cent, saving£150m.