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Dr Joe Kearns
"We have become complacent about infection"
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Thursday, 17 February, 2000, 11:44 GMT
'Food industry is more hygienic than hospitals'

Dr Joe Kearns Dr Joe Kearns has worked in medicine and the food industry

The food industry enforces more scrupulous standards of hygiene than most hospitals, a leading British Medical Association (BMA) representative has claimed.

His comments follow the publication of a National Audit Office report showing that one in ten people pick up a new infection when they are admitted to an NHS hospital, and that 5,000 patients a year die as a result.

Dr Joe Kearns has worked in both the medical field and the food industry and says that pork pies on the production line are better protected from bacteria.

Dr Kearns, a member of the BMA's occupational health committee, spoke out about poor standards of hygiene at the association's annual conference in 1998.

He told the BBC the NHS should make managers responsible for ensuring high standards of quality within their hospitals.

It was absolutely wonderful to have agents which would kill germs and we became very complacent
Dr Joe Kearns, British Medical Association
Current standards are enforced by infection control teams, but Dr Kearns said there was nothing these teams could do about hygiene on wards they had not visited.

He said: "It is not uncommon to find a ward in which the plaster has been damaged by a bed banging against a wall, it is not made good immediately the way it would be in a food production department.

"I have seen a side ward with blood still on the ceiling."

Dr Kearns said the medical profession had become very complacent about germs and infection since the advent of antibiotics.

He said: "It was absolutely wonderful to have agents which would kill germs and we became very complacent, and now the germs are resistant to many of the antibiotics, in fact it is very difficult in some cases to find an antibiotic that will have any effect at all on some of the particularly virulent ones."

Dr Kearns said the best solution was to enforce the Health and Safety at Work Act in the NHS.

He said: "Under the act every trust has a statutory duty to protect helpless members of the public while they lie in bed. Introduce these disciplines now, and implement them now."

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See also:
17 Feb 00 |  Health
NHS bugs 'kill 5,000 a year'
17 Feb 00 |  Health
Hospital infections: case studies

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