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Howard: Put Matron in charge

Speech at press conference at Conservative Campaign Headquarters

"Florence Nightingale once said that "the very first requirement in hospital is that it should do the sick no harm".

Under Mr Blair our hospitals are failing in that most basic duty.

Let's be clear. MRSA is avoidable.

We live in an advanced twenty first century country with ever more sophisticated healthcare.

Advances in medical technology have seen rare and congenital diseases tamed - eliminated one by one.

But Mr. Blair's obsession with targets has created a culture in which the super bug thrives.

It is a fact that doctors and nurses are prevented from closing wards they know to be infected with the super bug because of Whitehall targets.

According to a National Audit Office report, more than one in 10 infection control teams reported that their recommendation to close a ward or hospital to clean up the super bug was refused or discouraged by the chief executive because of - and I quote - "pressure on meeting performance targets".

In other words patients are dying because of Mr Blair's targets.

I have asked Mr. Blair to stop managers overruling doctors and nurses who want to shut wards because of MRSA.

But he has refused to do so.

For me cleaning up our hospitals isn't politics.

It's personal.

Three years ago Sandra's mother died from an infection she picked up in hospital.

Yes she was frail.

Yes she was old.

But she still enjoyed life.

And she need not have died.

Britain is the fourth richest country in the world.

We can afford world class public services - the clean hospitals and good local schools that hard working Britons deserve.

There is a better way.

We just need to change direction. We need to start by trusting professionals - not second guessing them at every turn.

That's why a Conservative Government will scrap Whitehall targets for hospitals.

Medicine is more than a job. It's a profession - a profession without which no decent society can function.

Government should recognise the devotion and dedication of doctors and nurses and give them the freedom to exercise their professional judgement.

We won't allow target obsessed bureaucrats to get in their way.

Matrons will have the power to close wards and operating theatres they know are infected with the super bug.

We'll put matron back where she belongs - in charge.

This is central to my whole approach.

It's called accountability.

When something goes wrong someone, somewhere should take responsibility.

Just as when something goes well they should get the credit - not the politicians.

We'll also require hospitals to publish their infection levels so that patients know which hospitals are the cleanest.

And we'll give them the right to choose to be treated in those hospitals.

There is nothing inevitable about the super bug crisis. No other country has seen the super bug infection take over its hospitals in the same way as we have in Britain.

By putting matron back in charge we can give people the security of knowing that, when they fall sick, they will be treated quickly in clean hospitals.

But if we are to give hard working families the high quality hospital treatment they deserve, we must also invest more in healthcare.

That's why a Conservative Government will spend an extra £34 billion in the NHS in our first term in office - that is at least as much as Labour."

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