Tuesday, March 29, 2005

What's bugging Reid?

JOHN REID is planning to charge hospital bosses with corporate manslaughter if poor hygiene standards result in patient deaths from MRSA.
The health secretary wants to close a loophole which means that nobody is legally responsible for deaths from preventable hospital-acquired infections.

He has told the Healthcare Commission that if Labour wins the next election a bill will be introduced immediately. Chief executives and boards who fail to maintain the highest standards would face fines or possibly imprisonment if it can be proved that their negligence led to a patient’s death.
The change will be controversial. Chief executives say the causes of MRSA are so varied that no one person can be blamed. They say attempts to bring corporate manslaughter charges in other industries have failed.
However, Reid has been riled by coverage suggesting that the government has failed to stem the spread of the superbug. He wants the measures to cover care homes and nursing homes as well. “We have looked at legislative rules and at the moment we are considering them in detail,” he said.
The move is expected to be trailed in Labour’s manifesto. A source close to Reid said: “You can give matrons the power to close wards like the Tories are suggesting, or change cleaning companies like we do, but the buck stops with the hospital manager. The act would be another way of shutting all the loopholes which hospital managers use to get round spending money on cleaning.”
Chief executives said that they have a statutory duty to ensure quality. Miles Scott, chief executive of Harrogate General Hospital NHS Trust, said: “There’s a myth that managers are only interested in the financial balance. We take our statutory duties very seriously. After all, failure to fulfil them means we lose our jobs.”
Andrew Lansley, shadow health secretary, said that Reid would do better to implement what was already in place. Tory research suggests only 50% of hospitals have adopted new model cleaning contracts.
The MRSA controversy revived last week when Luke Day became Britain’s youngest victim. He died within 36 hours of being born at Ipswich hospital. This weekend it emerged that a doctor or nurse carrying the bug was the most likely source.