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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 March, 2005, 19:29 GMT 20:29 UK
MRSA cover-up claim put to Blair
Mr Blair said the NHS was getting better, despite individual problems
Claims that some hospital superbug infections are being covered up have been put to Prime Minister Tony Blair.

During questioning on Sky News, patient Rebecca Russell said her hospital denied she had MRSA and said she only knew because of a midwife's notes.

Her mother, Sandra McKellar, asked for the total number of people with MRSA, saying: "It has been covered up."

Mr Blair said all cases should be properly recorded and action was being taken to tackle the superbug.

He was questioned by an audience of patients and medical staff at University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire.

They covered it up. And when we asked them, they still denied it
Rebecca Russell

Ms Russell, from Winson Green, Birmingham, believes she was infected at City Hospital in Birmingham while giving birth by Caesarean section.

"They sent me home, and the only way I found out was from my midwife writing into my post-natal case notes," she said.

"They never told me. They covered it up. And when we asked them, they still denied it. And now I am here with an open wound which could take up to 12 months to heal."

Mr Blair responded: "I'm very sorry about your individual case and I hope the trust is looking into it.

"It is important, though, that we recognise that it is still very rare that people contract this.

"What has happened is not that the amount of hospital-acquired infection has risen, but the amount that is resistant to antibiotics has risen."

Awaiting tests

Later Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs City Hospital, said the presence of MRSA was picked up during a routine test on Miss Russell and was then added to her notes.

She was then advised to see her GP for treatment, the trust said in a statement.

"We are, however, clarifying whether the midwife fully explained to her that she had MRSA," it added.

It also said it was awaiting test results to determine whether the infection was "hospital or community acquired".

During a two-hour question and answer session on Sky News, Mr Blair was quizzed on health and crime by audience members.

GP James McPherson asked whether patient care suffered if people were moved through the system too quickly to meet targets.

One began to wonder who had been in charge for eight years
David Davis
Shadow home secretary

The prime minister said the health secretary had talked recently about reducing targets and making them more flexible.

"The problem we have had with this is we put in this very large sum of money and I think in the initial stages targets did help focus people's minds on outputs and better performances," he said.

"I think after some years' experience now, it is probably time to sit down with you and work out how we can operate these more flexibly."

He was also confronted by 64-year-old Valerie Holsworth, from Scarborough, North Yorkshire, who said she had to pull out her own teeth while waiting to register with an NHS dentist.

And he answered questions on PFI hospital schemes, drug treatment places for those leaving prison and the effect of anti-terrorism laws on Muslim communities.

He also talked about his own experiences of being burgled while answering questions from victims of crime.

Shadow home secretary David Davis said Mr Blair had often told the audience he would examine ideas or was planning action.

"One began to wonder who had been in charge for eight years," said Mr Davis.

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