Opinion Former Article

MRSA Action UK: Response to target on NHS 'modern matrons' being met

The government has announced that they have fulfilled a pledge made by Gordon Brown our Prime Minister to double the number of matrons by the end of May.

In our opinion this will be only another tier of management. Keeping a hospital clean and free from infections does not require money or expensive equipment. However it does require from the management of the NHS a will to give someone the right to exercise authority and to take responsibility for the patient.

This government have introduced many initiatives and made many pledges to the people of this country, but our elected representatives and management of the NHS have failed abysmally in not having strong leadership on the ward.

In the past the highly visible matron had authority over everyone including her patients, nurses, cleaners and porters. Doctors respected and even feared the matron, and this strong leadership ensured spotless, efficient wards.

We have seen the role of the ward sister being redefined to that of ward manager, removing them from clinical areas and, in doing so, creating practical difficulties in the running of wards. There is no clearly defined role for the 'modern matron', they cover many hospital sites and job descriptions vary, some of the skills cited include IT skills, "a sense of humour" to name but a few. Gradings vary, how many of the 5,538 modern matrons are at the senior level with the authority needed to run the wards in the manner that we should expect?

MRSA Action UK believes that the modern matron, irrespective of government pledges, will still be unable to enforce standards that will eliminate healthcare infections. Only when discipline and authority is enforced on our wards will we see the reductions we require to prevent patients contracting healthcare infections.

The Health Secretary Alan Johnson has stated quite clearly that the government is on track to halve the rates of MRSA by the end of March 2008. The Health Protection Agency's figures show that over 30% of hospital trusts had already failed to meet the 50% reduction as at 31 December 2007. The target, for lethality, is not even challenging.

Last September Alan Johnson promised zero tolerance on superbugs in our hospitals, he gave a clear commitment when he said "we have a target of reducing it by 50%, I want to get it down to zero". Yet two months later in November he voted against an amendment in Parliament to implement zero tolerance strategies, and to "keep MRSA bloodstream infections below half the number of 2003-04, and deliver a 30% reduction in Clostridium difficile".

Alan Johnson has an absolute genius for putting flamboyant labels on empty luggage - as Aneurin Bevan, founder of the NHS would say if he was alive.

Derek Butler
MRSA Action UK
07762 741114

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