New watchdog will tackle hospital superbugs

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LONDON, Oct 24 (Reuters) A health watchdog with the power to prosecute hospital bosses and close dirty wards is to be set up to help tackle ''superbug'' infections.

Health Secretary Alan Johnson said the proposed new regulator will also make unannounced spot checks and fine hospitals that fail to meet hygiene standards.

''The regulator will have tougher powers to inspect and even close wards in order to protect patients,'' he said. ''NHS staff, such as matrons, nurses and porters, who spend every day on the wards, need to feel able to report concerns.'' The move comes a week after the Healthcare Commission said a quarter of hospital trusts fail to meet hygiene standards.

The head of one hospital trust in Kent stepped down earlier this month after a damning report by the commission into failures blamed for 90 deaths.

The report said appalling hygiene, nursing shortages and bad management contributed to the outbreaks of clostridium difficile, a bacterial infection that causes diarrhoea.

Details of the new Care Quality Commission will be included in the Health and Social Care Bill due before parliament later this year.

REUTERS SG RK1825

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