Brown Settles Labour's Nerves with Attack on Tory Health Policy

Article excerpt

By Nigel Morris

Gordon Brown soothed Labour jitters after a traumatic fortnight during clashes with David Cameron in the Commons over the condition of hospitals.

He erased memories of a disastrous appearance in last week's Prime Minister's Questions with a forceful attack on Tory health policy. Labour MPs - who watched in silent dismay when Mr Brown was floored by the Conservative leader seven days ago - cheered his performance.

They had been shaken by a collapse in their standing in the polls following his decision to rule out a general election and Mr Cameron's strong showing at the annual Tory conference.

The angry exchanges were prompted by Mr Cameron's accusation that government targets were to blame for increasing numbers of hospital- acquired infections such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile.

The Tory leader said: "The Health Care Commission said last week: 'Where trusts are under severe pressure to meet targets relating to finance and access, concern for infection control may be undermined'.

"Will you accept that the number and extent of your top-down targets are contributing to this problem?"

Mr Brown replied: "It's because we are concerned about MRSA and C. diff that in the last few weeks we have taken very special measures - isolation wards, we are about to appoint 3,000 more matrons, we are also about to do a deep clean of hospitals."

The Prime Minister quoted the chairman of the Commission, who has said hospital managers could not blame targets for "taking their eye off the ball".

He said: "It is not targets that are to blame. …