Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, is continuing his fight to get Ministers to come clean over policy to tackle infections acquired in NHS hospitals which kill between 5,000 and 20,000 patients every year. He tackled the Prime Minister directly last Wednesday; the government responded by announcing a ‘new‘ policy initiative on Friday; then Ministers admitted on Tuesday that in fact they have no new policy at all to remedy this terrible scourge. However, Ministers did release figures which reveal that East & North Herts Trust hospitals have the 6th highest infection rate of all general hospitals in the country. However, West Herts Trust hospitals last year halved its MRSA infection rate and improved to 16th lowest in the country.
Peter Lilley said “I welcome the recent marked improvement in West Herts hospitals and urge East & North Herts to achieve a similar improvement.”
The issue of Hospital Acquired Infections burst into the national media following Peter Lilley‘s question to the Prime Minister last Wednesday. This provoked the claim by the Health Minister on the Today programme that he was “taking further measures” including appointing a head of infection control in every hospital. Yet no statement was made to parliament about these new measures.
On Monday Peter Lilley called for a Statement and received the backing of the Speaker. When the Minister failed to respond on Tuesday, Peter Lilley was called by the Speaker to raise the Question he had put down on this subject a fortnight ago. He asked: “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?”.
Peter Lilley went on: “Although the government clearly want to stop discussion on this issue, I will continue to raise it until Britain‘s record in dealing with hospital acquired infections is the best in Europe instead of the worst as it is at present. “.
Note to Editors:
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.
Extract from Health Questions – Hansard – 9th December
Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): If he will make a statement on the incidence of infections acquired in NHS hospitals. 
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. The right hon. Gentleman might like to think what effect his policy of compulsory competitive tendering had on hospital infection rates-
Mr. Speaker: Order. It is not for the Minister to worry about such matters.
Extract from Prime Minister‘s Questions – Hansard – 3rd December
Q10.  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.