HC Deb 14 September 2004 vol 424 cc1119-20
9. Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD)

What progress has been made in implementing, "Winning Ways", his Department's policy on hospital infections. [188509]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. John Hutton)

The Department and the national health service are both actively implementing the initiatives contained in "Winning Ways", for example, through new local directors of infection control and a new hand hygiene campaign, which will help to meet our objective of reducing the incidence of MRSA—methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus—in the NHS.

Tom Brake

I thank the Minister for his response. He will be aware that isolating patients is a key tool in tackling MRSA and severe acute respiratory syndrome, yet I understand that no figures are available centrally on what isolation rooms are available in hospitals. Will he instigate a review to look at their availability nationwide to find out whether sufficient isolation facilities are available?

Mr. Hutton

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for those comments. We obviously keep such things under careful review, and one of the things that we have been saying to the NHS is that we want more single rooms to be built into new hospital provision. That is an effective way to help the NHS and hospitals to deal with incidents of MRSA infection because, as he says, isolation is very important. We are looking carefully at all those issues.

Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab)

I welcome my right hon. Friend's initiatives on this matter, but when he publishes the data that he is collecting, will he be careful not to publish a crude league table, as that could be extremely misleading to people? We need to ensure that we are comparing apples with apples. When he publishes that data, will he also include some information about the risks, putting them into perspective? One of the difficulties is helping the public to understand that we are talking about a very small risk.

Mr. Hutton

Again, I am grateful to my hon. Friend for those comments. We have been publishing information about MRSA bloodstream infections for some time. That information is widely available. Next year, we will publish further information about, for example, glycopeptide-resistant enterococci, DNV and orthopaedic surgical site infections. That is part of a suite of information that we want to be available to the public so that they can make informed and sensible choices—very much in the way that we have been encouraged to do by others.

Mr. Archie Norman (Tunbridge Wells) (Con)

We had a very constructive debate on this issue last week, but may I ask the Minister specifically about the patient environment action team inspections and the rate of hospital infection? My local hospital in Tunbridge Wells was recently subject to an undercover investigation by the BBC that resulted in very worrying revelations about the standards of cleanliness, and the ubiquitous Professor Hugh Pennington declared it to be the worst that he had ever seen. That hospital was declared to be acceptable by the PEAT, as were all NHS hospitals last year. Will the Minister now accept that what was acceptable to the PEATs is now no longer acceptable as a standard in an MRSA world and that those inspections need thoroughly overhauling to be much more based on taking account of the general standard of hygiene and discipline in hospitals and probably involving microbiological tests specifically for MRSA in high-risk areas?

Mr. Hutton

Again, the hon. Gentleman is quite right: we had a constructive debate last week, and it shows the value of trying to approach these issues in that way rather than by jumping on political bandwagons and shroud-waving to raise anxieties and fears as, I am afraid, some have tried to do. I agree with him about that. I also agree that it is important that we take into account the best scientific advice and intelligence that is available to us on standards of hygiene and cleanliness in our hospitals. That is very much what the chief medical officer is trying to do and I will draw his attention to the hon. Gentleman's remarks.