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Last Updated: Monday, 24 September 2007, 15:35 GMT 16:35 UK
PM driven by own NHS experience
Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown finished his speech by talking about the NHS
Gordon Brown has used his own experience of the NHS when he almost lost his sight to explain why he is a strong believer in the health service.

The prime minister told the Labour Party conference it was the care of the NHS that saved one of his eyes after an injury he suffered playing rugby.

Mr Brown also reiterated a number of policies to tackle hospital infections and create more "personalised" care.

The health service is expected to be a main battleground in the next election.

The prime minister told delegates in Bournemouth: "Why do I believe so strongly in the NHS?

For the past 10 years Gordon Brown has failed to raise the individual quality of care for patients
Andrew Lansley, shadow health secretary

"When I was 16, when I was a playing for my school rugby team against our former pupils, somebody accidentally kicked me near my eyes, and from the age of 16 to 21 I spent a lot of time in hospital as the NHS worked to save my sight.

"I learned that with a simple twist of fate life can change.

"It was the skills of a surgeon, the care of the wonderful nurses, the attention and yes, the love and care of the NHS staff that managed to save one of my eyes.

"And it is because of the NHS that I can see the words I read today."

He went on to say that is was experiences like this that taught him that "things don't always come easy and there are things worth fighting for".

"Like so many people across this country I have the best of reasons to believe in the life-saving power of the NHS."

Guaranteed appointment with a specialist within two weeks of referral for all patients with breast problems
Cervical screening results within 14 days. At present, over half of patients wait six weeks or more for their results
Breast cancer screening for women aged 47 to 73. Current age range is 50 to 70
Bowel screening age limit extended from 70 to 75 from 2010

And he added he would not let the public down as he would "stand up for our hospitals".

The prime minister also confirmed - as widely trailed before the speech - that there would be a deep-clean of every ward to try to rid hospitals of infections such as MRSA and C difficile.

He also reiterated that the number of matrons would be increased from 2,000 to 5,000 and they would be given the power to hold NHS cleaning services to account.

"Matrons will have the power to order additional cleaning and send out a message - meet the highest standards of cleanliness or lose your contracts."

This is a good news day for patients, nurses and healthcare
Peter Carter, Royal College of Nursing

And he said there should be a regular check-up for every adult on the NHS and GP hours would be extended to make services more accessible.

These were both part of a push to make the NHS more "personalised".

Breast and colon cancer screening programmes are also to be extended and there is to be an extra 15bn for medical research.

Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said the moves would have a "significant impact" on cancer survival.

On the move to increase the number of matrons, Peter Carter, of the Royal College of Nursing, said: "This is a good news day for patients, nurses and healthcare."

But shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said: "For the past 10 years Gordon Brown has failed to raise the individual quality of care for patients, with empty rhetoric and an obsession with reviews instead of policy how can we expect anything different."

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