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Published on 18 October 2007

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Party leader blames targets for UK hospital infections rise

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UK opposition party leader David Cameron has blamed “top-down” Government targets for a rise in hospital-acquired infections such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile.

Addressing the House of Commons – the lower house of the UK Parliament – the Conservative Party leader said almost half of hospitals agreed that targets were “getting in the way” of infection control.

But Prime Minister Gordon Brown angrily rejected the charge, saying Government investment in the NHS meant extra money could be spent on a “deep clean” of hospitals and increasing the number of hospital matrons.

The clash came after Health Secretary Alan Johnson apologised for the “scandalous” outbreak of C difficile at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, which claimed up to 90 lives.

Mr Cameron quoted a statement from UK watchdog body the Healthcare Commission: “Where trusts are under severe pressure to meet targets relating to finance and access, concern for infection control may be undermined.”

The opposition leader asked Mr Brown: “Will you accept that the number and extent of your top-down targets are contributing to this problem?”

Mr Brown replied: “It is because we are concerned about MRSA and C difficile that in the last few weeks we have taken very special measures – isolation wards, we are about to appoint 3,000 more matrons, we are also about to do a deep clean of hospitals.”

Later in the exchange Mr Cameron said: “If we are going to deal with hospital-acquired infections, don’t you understand, you’ve got to listen to the people who work in the NHS?”

Mr Brown said: “It is precisely because I have been listening to the British people that we have put an extra £100m into tackling MRSA and C difficile.”

Copyright © PA Business 2007

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