Headlines: March 8th, 2005

The Government is considering bringing in legislation that would mean hospitals and local authority and privately run care and nursing homes having to comply with a statutory hygiene code. The Health Secretary, John Reid, has opened discussions on the idea with health and social care regulators.News of the move came as new figures showed the number of cases of the MRSA infection – the so-called superbug – had fallen in England by just over six per cent on last year’s level and now stands, on average, at the lowest point since mandatory recording began.

John Reid welcomed the figures which, he said, were due to a range of measures introduced by the government and to the hard work of National Health Service staff. He was not, he added, being complacent which was why he was looking at the possibility of extending to hospitals, care homes and nursing homes a statutory hygiene code.

He said the code was likely to apply to both the public and independent sectors but first there were a number of key experts and organisations that would need to be consulted before any legislation was brought forward.

Dr Reid outlined a number of areas in which action had already been taken to improve hygiene and infection control, including ensuring that every hospital has a Director of Infection Prevention and Control and bringing in 3,000 modern matrons who had raised the profile of the need to tackle infection control. In the future, he said, hygiene and cleanliness and infection control would be core elements of the new NHS “health check” to be run by the Healthcare Commission.