Health Minister admits"we have no new policies to tackle superbug crisis".

- Thursday, 11th December 2003

 

Health Minister, John Reid, has written to Peter Lilley MP admitting that the announcement he made about superbugs "did not announce any new policy".

This flatly contradicts both his own statement on the Today Programme on the 5th December that "we are taking further measures" and his Department‘s press release which said "Dr Reid today published plans for a crackdown on healthcare acquired infections...he gave his backing to wide ranging proposals from the Chief Medical Officer...which seek to revolutionise the way potential infections are handled in hospitals".

This was also repudiated by the Minister of State for Health, Rosie Winterton, who told Parliamentary "if this were new policy it would have been brought to the House. It is not new policy".

Peter Lilley, whose question to the Prime Minister about the 5,000 to 20,000 patients a year who die of infections acquired in NHS hospitals prompted Dr Reid‘s announcement, has been calling for a full Statement in Parliament. He said: "The big issue now is not the fact that Ministers have been telling untruths it is the appalling revelation that they propose no new measures to tackle this huge problem. By the government‘s own admission Britain has a far higher level of infection than other European countries. Nearly 1 in 10 patients entering an NHS hospital acquire an infection in hospital. And according to the EU it is getting worse faster in this country than any where else in Europe. Yet Ministers propose to do nothing new to reverse this trend.

"The idea floated in Dr Reid‘s ‘non-proposals‘ of imposing a new tier of management responsible for infection control was in any case the wrong approach.

"The NHS is already over-managed and over-targeted. As a result dedicated NHS staff are demoralised and distracted from clinical priorities. We need to restore the Florence Nightingale culture. That requires giving more authority to medical staff, matrons and ward sisters - not more managers. Ultimately, the NHS will only become responsive to the needs of patients rather than politicians if we restore patients‘ freedom to go to the hospital of their choice; publish information (eg about infection rates) to enable them to make informed choices; and make taxpayers‘ money follow their choice."4

END

Notes to Editors

1) Extract from Prime Minister‘s Questions - Hansard - 3rd December

Q10. [141238] Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): Is the Prime Minister aware that, according to the National Audit Office, between 5,000 and 20,000 people die from infections caught in NHS hospitals, and that according to the European Commission, the problem is worse in this country, and getting worse at a faster rate, than anywhere else in Europe? Will he therefore turn his attention back from the search for elusive biological threats in the middle east to the real biological warfare that is being fought and lost in dirty wards, and through unclean hands, in our under-managed and demoralised health service?

The Prime Minister: First, it is not sensible to set the serious issue that the right hon. Gentleman raises against fighting terrorism in the middle east; both issues are important, and they obviously have to be tackled in different ways. Secondly, the question of infections in hospitals is not new, and we are taking action to try to limit this. Thirdly, yes, there are hospitals in which we obviously need to make further changes and to raise standards, but I hope that he and the vast majority of people will accept-I am not sure that many Conservative Members do accept this-that on the whole, those in the health service do a fantastic job in looking after patients. The vast majority of people get excellent treatment within the national health service, and I do wish that occasionally, particularly on a day when the progress of the health service is being laid before people and is so obvious, we would congratulate it on making progress, rather than continually drawing attention to the defects.

2) Peter Lilley‘s Point of Order - extract from Hansard - 8th December

Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will recall that on Wednesday I raised with the Prime Minister the issue of hospital-acquired infections, which kill more people every few months than died in New York on 9/ll. One would normally be gratified if within a couple of days the Government had come out with a policy response-except that the Secretary of State for Health chose to announce his new policy for dealing with this terrible problem on the "Today" programme on Friday, a day when the House was not sitting, and does not appear even to have tabled a written ministerial statement today. Would you advise me whether you have received any request from the Secretary of State to come to the House to give Members an opportunity to question him on that policy to establish whether it is, as I hope, a substantive contribution to one of the most serious issues facing our constituents, or whether it is, as I fear, another ineffective gesture? Will you confirm this is an issue of immense importance that should be treated not as the NHS‘s dirty little secret but as a dirty great issue that is of concern to us all?

Mr. Speaker: Order. Let me reply to the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley).
I recall the right hon. Gentleman raising the matter, which is obviously important to him. I shall not be drawn into the argument, but when a Minister has an important matter to announce, I expect it to be announced in the House. Tomorrow is Health questions, when the right hon. Gentleman may catch my eye.... I would hope that a Minister would come before the House and not only make a statement but give the House an opportunity to question it. On the other matter, a written statement was given to the House.

3) Extract from Health Questions - Hansard - 9th December

Hospital-acquired Infections

Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): If he will make a statement on the incidence of infections acquired in NHS hospitals. [142555]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Ms Rosie Winterton): We believe that around 9 per cent. of hospital patients acquire an infection while in NHS hospitals. The chief medical officer has published his report on how to prevent and reduce hospital infections, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has accepted the recommendations in full. We are confident that that will improve patient care in this area.

Mr. Lilley : Is the Minister aware that the Secretary of State‘s refusal to make a proper statement in this House about his initiatives to tackle a problem that kills between 5,000 and 20,000 of our constituents every year is a disgrace? Is it because the initiative that he announced on the Today" programme on Friday when the House was not sitting was treated with derision by doctors in my constituency who say that appointing another layer of management to an already over-managed health service is not the way to bring back the Florence Nightingale culture that we need?

Ms Winterton: On the right hon. Gentleman‘s first point, I am surprised that he should make such a statement. He knows very well that if this were new policy it would have been brought to the House. It is not new policy; it is a review of the policy that is being carried out, and my right hon. Friend has written to him to that effect...

4) See Patient Power by Peter Lilley published by Demos or on www.peterlilley.co.uk

 

 

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Health Minister admits"we have no new policies to tackle superbug crisis".

 

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