Monday, September 17, 2007

NHS getting desperate about superbugs

Useless bureaucrats to be bypassed -- and there's nothing more desperate than that for socialists

THE health secretary, Alan Johnson, is to bypass hospital managers to give nurses and matrons the power to report directly to hospital boards in the fight against superbugs in the National Health Service. Nursing staff will be made accountable for infection control on their wards and promised a “hotline” to the top if management refuses to take ward cleanliness seriously.

Johnson will admit this week that poor infection control in hospitals has displaced waiting lists as the biggest problem facing the NHS and that tackling superbugs is now his priority. His decision to bypass the chain of command reflects frustration at the failure of many trusts to get to grips with infection control. More than 1,600 people die from MRSA, or methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, in England and Wales every year. In addition, more than 3,800 people die from clostridium difficile.

Johnson believes matrons lack the power to take full responsibility for the state of their wards, because they must rely on management for resources. Nurses complain that their pleas for hygiene to be taken more seriously are ignored. Nursing staff will be told to inform trust boards directly if the hospital needs more isolation wards or cleaning equipment. They will be asked to update boards on cleanliness four times a year.

Johnson will make the announcement ahead of a public consultation on Tuesday in which more than 1,000 people across England will be asked how to improve the NHS. He will say fear of catching a hospital superbug has overtaken waiting times as the public’s most pressing concern about the NHS.

The consultation is part of a review being carried out by Lord Darzi, the health minister, at the request of Johnson and Gordon Brown. Darzi has also identified hospital superbugs as a serious problem. Darzi, a world-renowned surgeon at St Mary’s hospital, London, said: “We cannot avoid the challenge of better cleanliness and infection control in hospitals. I know, as a surgeon, that cleanliness and infection control are crucial to quality of care. “It is already clear from what I have found in the past eight weeks that this is a major issue of public concern, too. “We want to send a clear signal to patients that doctors, nurses and other clinical staff take their safety seriously. We want to give more responsibility to matrons and nurses.”


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