The Government has set up a new health watchdog for England whose remit will be to tackle hospital bugs such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile (C difficile).
The Care Quality Commission will replace the Healthcare Commission, Commission for Social Care Inspection and the Mental Health Act Commission.
It will have the power to close hospital wards and will be able to increase the number of checks carried out on facilities with poor records of infection control.
The body will also be responsible for care homes and will be able to fine or shut down failing providers.
Announcing the move, Health Secretary Alan Johnson said: “Despite progress, tackling infection remains a challenge for the NHS.
“I am determined that we will take action where necessary to safeguard patients and ensure staff feel able to report concerns.
“The regulator will have tougher powers to inspect and even close wards in order to protect patients and service users.
“NHS staff, such as matrons, nurses and porters, who spend every day on the wards, need to feel able to report concerns to the new regulator.”
In a statement to MPs, Mr Johnson said the new body would take “rapid and appropriate action” against any organisation that is putting patients at risk.
He said: “The Care Quality Commission will have flexibility about how and when to use the enforcement powers.
“For the first time decisions as to whether services are good enough and the action that should be taken will be completely independent of Government across both health (including NHS services) and adult social care.”
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