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A new UK public service regulator is to be created which will have stringent powers over hospitals, according to Health Secretary Alan Johnson.
The regulator, called Ofcare, will replace bodies like the Healthcare Commission and the Commission for Social Care Inspection from 2008.
Speaking at the conference of the ruling Labour party, currently under way in the town of Bournemouth, Mr Johnson said many patients in the UK feel insecure because they fear contracting hospital-acquired infections such as MRSA.
The minister said Ofcare will be able to fine, inspect, investigate and intervene where hospitals are failing to meet hygiene standards.
â€œThis tough regime will not just apply across the NHS, but in the private sector as well,â€ he added.
â€œTo ensure patientsâ€™ safety I want a regulator with the power to close, clean and then re-open wards if necessary.â€
Mr Johnson also told delegates in Bournemouth that â€œnothing better encapsulates the values of our party than the National Health Serviceâ€.
He added: â€œHospital-acquired infections are a global problem. In each hospital, matrons and nurses will be empowered and encouraged to use their expertise to fight infection on the front line.â€
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