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NHS News in Brief

Our weekly round up of NHS and healthcare stories.

Criminal charges

Hospital managers could face criminal charges if patients contract hospital-acquired infections on dirty wards, Secretary of State for Health, Patricia Hewitt has warned. The government plans to introduce a hygiene bill for the NHS and care homes to reduce the rate of antibiotic-resistant MRSA and other superbugs, as part of its 18-month legislative programme. As a result, managers will have a legal duty to keep their hospitals free from MRSA. In an interview with Jonathan Dimbleby, Hewitt confirmed that the government was considering the introduction of criminal liability for NHS trust chief executives who fail to effectively implement infection control. She said that it was unacceptable to have a situation where hygiene laws and standards at food factories were tougher than those governing hospital cleanliness. However, NHS Confederation has said that it is shocked by proposals to introduce criminal charges, believing that such a move will not solve MRSA.

On a roll

Heart patients are being treated more quickly than ever, according to NHS figures. NHS chief executive Sir Nigel Crisp said that patients needing heart bypass operations and angioplasty were having surgery within three months. The three-month target, reached in March, comes three years ahead of schedule. Sir Nigel also said that the number of people waiting for operations had dropped to 822,000 in March - a record low - from 906,000 a year earlier.

Out-of-hours shortages

NHS Borders is flying eight German GPs to cover staff shortages in the region for patients using the out-of-hours service. The board will pay for B&B accommodation while the GPs work their shifts: a cost the authority says would be the same if it bought in doctors from any other region. The area was hit by shortages, along with many others, following the introduction of the new GMS contract in April last year, under which GP practices could opt out of providing out-of-hours services. Continued shortages for the new service, which began in November 2004, have forced the authority to look further a field for help, according to a spokesman from NHS Borders.

Foundation hospitals under fire

Tony Blair is ready to hand over more power to Foundation Hospitals despite the risk of another battle with Gordon Brown and a backbench rebellion, according to reports. The 18-month parliamentary legislative programme, unveiled in the Queen's Speech today (May 17), included legislation on extending the role of the private sector in primary care. However, any future legislation on broadening Foundation Trust powers will be dependent upon a review of trusts conducted by the Healthcare Commission. Due to be published this summer, the review will look at how well trusts are using their current powers, the impact new-style trusts are having on patient care and access to services. In addition, the Healthcare Commission looked at the restrictions trusts currently face; this could pave the way for calls for more freedom.

30th September 2008

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