25/09/2007

Johnson Unveils Plans To Improve NHS

Health Secretary Alan Johnson has unveiled a series of measures aimed at improving the NHS, at the Labour party's annual conference in Bournemouth.

Mr Johnson's plans focused on tackling hospital superbugs, such as MRSA, and improving security for NHS staff.

A new hospital regulator, with powers to impose fines and close down entire wards in hospitals that do not meet hygiene requirements, is to be introduced and Mr Johnson said that hospitals across England will undergo "an aggressive programme of intensive deep cleaning".

Mr Johnson said: "Hospital acquired infections are a global problem. We have made good progress bringing down infection rates, but we have to adopt new techniques if we are to go further.

"This deep-clean programme will give hospitals a one-off blitz so walls, patient equipment and ventilation ducts are disinfected and scrubbed clean, a ward at a time."

Speaking about the role of the new hospital regulator, the Health Secretary said: "Hospital infections like MRSA undermine confidence in the NHS. We will equip the new healthcare regulator with tough powers, backed by fines, to inspect, investigate and intervene where hospitals are failing to meet hygiene standards.

"The new regulator will have power to impose fines and additional powers to inspect and issue warnings, as well as halting new admissions or even cancelling a provider's registration entirely."

Mr Johnson also announced a £97 million boost to help tackle violence and abuse against NHS staff.

The Health Secretary said that £29 million would be spent on 30,000 safety alarm devices for lone workers, while the remaining money will fund a range of security measures, including training in personal safety, conflict resolutions and dealing with verbal abuse for staff and a centralised reporting system.

Mr Johnson said: "Over 58,000 NHS staff were physically assaulted by patients and relatives in England in 2005-06. This is completely unacceptable. NHS staff working alone and in the community are particularly at risk. Thanks to these safety alarms they will know that help is at hand.

"Although we have seen a sixteen-fold increase in prosecutions since 2003, more needs to be done. NHS staff dedicate their lives to caring for the sick and in return they deserve respect. Anybody who abuses our staff must face tough action and the possibility of jail."

However, Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley described Alan Johnson's plans as "delayed, diluted and duplicated". Mr Lansley said: "His rhetoric for change is unconvincing after ten years of missed opportunities and contradictory reforms."

(KMcA)

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