I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman's intervention was typical of the deflection tactics usually employed by Ministers—but they do not usually have to go back more than 20 years to pin the problem on the Conservative party. There is hardly any record of infections of this kind in those days. I shall return to that subject later.
A conservative but realistic estimate by the National Audit Office puts the number of deaths from MRSA at more than 5,000 per annum. More than 40,000 people may have died of MRSA under the present Government; certainly more die of it each year than die in traffic accidents. Hospital-acquired infections are affecting more than 100,000 people each year in hospitals in England and Wales, the number being divided proportionally.
It is a particularly British crisis. The number of incidences of MRSA infection in the United Kingdom, at 44 per cent. of staphylococcus aureus blood isolates resistant to methicillin, compares with just 1 per cent. in Denmark and The Netherlands and 19 per cent. in Germany.Much as the Secretary of State always likes to shift the blame away from the Government, we do not think that the accusing finger should be pointed at hard-working, dedicated NHS staff.