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There are too many cases of hospital-acquired infections. That is why we have established national cleaning specifications, a detailed code of practice and other actions to target the causes of those infections.
I thank the First Minister for a partial answer. No doubt, he is aware of the Scottish infections standards and strategy group, which is based in Aberdeen. That group agrees with me that we must start a programme of screening and isolation of new patients who enter hospital. Does the First Minister agree that we must screen not only patients, but staff and regular visitors and give responsibility for infection control and cleaning to sisters who are in charge of wards?
The Minister for Health and Community Care will outline further actions on the matter over the coming weeks. I do not want to pre-empt that announcement, which will be made to Parliament in the proper way. However, I want to make it clear that we need a tough programme not only of setting national standards, but of ensuring that those standards are implemented. We need to publish the performance of hospitals against those standards and to ensure that, throughout Scotland, individuals in wards have a clear responsibility for ensuring that improved cleaning standards are met. However, we also need to ensure that our response is proportionate and that individuals take some responsibility for this matter. A proportionate response is one thing, but the tough top-down regime that will implement those standards and ensure that performance is measured against them and published will be outlined by the minister soon.
Does the First Minister agree that the first step towards tackling infections such as MRSA is for our health boards and authorities to be open and transparent when they are having difficulties? Earlier this week, NHS Grampian was not forthcoming when it was asked to acknowledge the number of MRSA cases in its hospitals. In fact, the information had to be prised from it. Does he agree that we really have to open and transparent before we can tackle the problem?
I do not want to comment on an incident when I am not aware of all the facts, but I am happy to ensure that it is looked into if Mr Rumbles so wishes. That said, I believe that openness and transparency will be part of the solution to this issue, because if we put standards in place we must ensure that we know the areas in which they are or are not being met. That is why we will move further towards publishing appropriate information next year.