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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 April, 2005, 11:32 GMT 12:32 UK
What do you think of Tory health plans?
Michael Howard talks to a doctor at The Heart Hospital, London
Conservative leader Michael Howard has launched his party's policy to put hospital matrons in charge of cleaning in the fight against hospital superbugs.

He said that patients are dying "because of Mr Blair's targets" and pledged to close wards affected by MRSA.

Labour says they have given matrons more powers but they need to consult over ward closures to ensure patients do not spread infections by moving around hospitals.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats will be unveiling their education manifesto.

What do you think of the Conservatives' plans to tackle health issues?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

If it takes up to 10 years to train some of the most essential professionals in the NHS it is not going to be possible to completely build up the service in eight years. It would be quite possible, however, for a hidden agenda to wreck the service in less than one year.
J Westerman., Leeds, UK

What use is half the money towards an operation if you can't afford the other half?
Sarah Franklin, Stirling
What use is half the money towards an operation if you can't afford the other half? Nasty, elitist policies. No surprise there then. I would rather give up work than have my contributions used in this manner.
Sarah Franklin, Stirling

Why did it take a celebrity chef to point out that school dinners were not healthy? Labour has been paying someone to manage this issue for seven years! Hardly an effective government.
Alfie Noakes, North of England, UK

The Tories under Margaret Thatcher were the very ones who stripped nurses of the right to control ward hygiene when they forced outside tendering for cleaning services. It was the start of their attack on the morale of the NHS and the start of the privatisation process which they still instinctively yearn for. Ask any health worker from the Thatcher era if they believe the Tories support the NHS.
Tony, Coventry

I think the same about Tory plans as I have in previous years. It is the ones they operate after the election that count, so if you want to take that sort of risk with something as important as the NHS, vote Tory.
J Westerman., Leeds. UK

There is no evidence that the Conservatives will destroy the NHS and they may use the funds available more carefully than the government has
Chris Parker, Bucks
Why do people seem to linger on what happened in the past rather than what will happen in the future? Labour has had eight years to turn things around and there have been some improvements, but they also seem to have diverted resources into managers because they are obsessed with reports and spin. There is no evidence that the Conservatives will destroy the NHS and they may use the funds available more carefully than the government has. If they get it wrong we can always vote them out next time.
Chris Parker, Bucks

Everyone, regardless of whether they have the ability to go private, is entitled to use the NHS. With that in mind, how can paying less to get a person private treatment be bad? It will cost the NHS less than half of what it would cost. So somebody wants to pay to queue jump. What queue? There is not queue in the private sector and that person when they do go private, with a small proportion of NHS money, frees up a bed, a queue place, and money. Get real and get a brain.
Stewart Knight, Chester, UK

Tory health plans are focused on providing basic, near third world services for the poor, and letting the rich reap the rewards. The Conservatives are not a party of the people, they never have been and never will be.

We need cleaner hospitas, more efficiently run, and more nurses actually visible on the wards
J Copleston, UK
Good. Our hospitals are in a poor state. We need cleaner hospitas,l more efficiently run, and more nurses actually visible on the wards.
J Copleston, UK

Under the Tory plans, if you are well off you can jump queues by taking a proportion of NHS trust's money to go outside of NHS for treatment. With no extra money for the NHS, the funds in the NHS would be reduced on and on. The policy coupled with cuts would drag the NHS into a sorry state.
Mary King, Dover UK

How dare the Conservatives complain about the NHS, it was they who cut investment and took away matrons. Now they want to increase investment and bring back matrons - ie copy the sensible Labour policy.
brijesh, Birmingham

Too many targets, rules and too much interference
Ian, Fleet, UK
Too many targets, rules and too much interference. We must get the NHS off all political agendas and not see it as a vote winner or loser. Its about peoples' health.
Ian, Fleet, UK

Please, the Labour government has been in power for eight years. They must now take responsibility the state of the NHS. There is no point in continuing to blame the Tories. They have had all this taxpayers money and have obviously not done enough with it.
Scott, Birmingham

I remember the last time the Tories ran the Health Service - the hospital my wife was admitted to was filthy because of spending cuts and "efficiencies". I will never forget that and people should reflect on that.
Phil Donoghue, Glasgow

The NHS was a great idea when it first came into being, however there is no way in the long run that it can be sustained with people living longer and seemingly retiring earlier! Scrap it and make everyone get health insurance. If you cannot afford to buy it for yourself then the government can subsidise or pay for it outright for you. Of course, anyone who suggested this would get crucified for even thinking of scrapping the NHS.
Alistair, Berkshire

Lest we forget, when the Tories were last in power they privatised the cleaning services in the NHS. This is the root cause of the spread of MRSA. A hospital in my area, Morriston Hospital, is looking to take over the cleaning services because the private company are woefully inadequate.
Gareth Parsons, Neath, South Wales

Private healthcare will always be cheaper than the real cost of an operation on the NHS. Tory plans would make operations for those who could afford it 50% cheaper for the country. That sounds like logic to me.
Khaled Shivji, London

Someone needs to be in charge and have the authority to make things happen
Jean Smith, Redditch, England
Making hospital cleanliness an issue is long overdue. Having sat in hospital waiting rooms, I have noticed how dirty everything seems. Blood on floors has remained there all day without anyone bothering to clean the floor. I agree with Michael Howard that someone needs to be in charge and have the authority to make things happen.
Jean Smith, Redditch, England

My wife's a midwife at the local hospital and a year ago they started working 12 hour shifts instead of 8. She's on her last night of a seven night stretch. And they call that progress. No wonder the nurses are tired and demoralised.
Ian Guest, Scarborough

Nothing the Conservative Party could say would ever interest me
Dubhglas, Glasgow, Scotland
Nothing the Conservative Party could say would ever interest me. In my opinion, anyone in Scotland who votes for this party should hang their heads in shame. Britain with out the Tories will be a better place.
Dubhglas, Glasgow, Scotland

Why do people keep harking back to the old days? Michael Howard has no intention of cutting NHS services, completely the opposite and he is prepared to improve the care we deserve so please, no more Blair talk of going backwards and lets be positive about his wonderful idea of cutting out bureaucracy and going forward with a much improved National Health Service for all irrespective of wealth.
Roger Mereweather, Sandown, IW, UK

I believe all services should be once again localised as far as possible. People will give far more support to local services. Bring back the discipline and responsibilities of the ward sister. It is pure common sense. There is to much tiptoeing around trying not to upset people and the result is that staff get away with as little as they can and so cost tax payers more money and allow for poor hospital conditions.
Christopher Swift, Fylde

One thing so far not mentioned is the dearth of NHS dentists. Most went private when the Tories were in office, because a new contract couldn't be negotiated. I don't hear either of the two main parties laying any emphasis on restoring this facility in the foreseeable future. I wonder why?
Dave, England

Surely it's the staff's fault and the hospital's management that's to blame. Would Howard have handled anything differently if he were currently prime minister? Answer - no!
Lee Newham, United Kingdom

It's interesting that the people who actually work in the health service are the most positive about Labour's track record since taking power. Everyone else's opinion is just negative and media-influenced. Remember, the Tories don't care about the health service, never have and never will.
Davy, Melbourne, Australia (formerly London)

There is no such thing as free treatment. Either you pay for it in taxes or through private insurance
Mark, London
There is no such thing as free treatment. Either you pay for it in taxes or through private insurance. Countries which have mostly private healthcare, generally have better hospitals and more efficient, value-for-money services. The NHS is a legacy of past Labour failures and we should get rid of it.
Mark, London

The Tory health plans are the greatest. I work hard, I deserve a reward and giving me half my private health costs will give me a chance to have a little more holiday time which is good for my health and keep me out of the way of those using the National Health Service. That's their luck, that's the way the cookie crumbles, thank you Mr Howard
Tony Warner, Chesham, England

I can't believe how short the British public's memory is. I remember all the cuts of nursing jobs and closure of hospitals by previous Conservative governments. They even sold off NHS staff accommodation thus making it difficult for nurse and junior doctors to find affordable living accommodation thereby creating staff shortages in areas like London.
Dave, Shefford, England

I believe that if the Tories had acted positively when MRSA first came to the fore, instead of keeping up with their policy of cut backs and contracting out, then the problem would not be so bad today.
Dave, Scotland

Tory Ideology: How to make something better by starving it of money. And then putting the money you save in rich people's pockets.
William Donelson, Wimbledon UK

Kill this ageing dinosaur
Martin, UK
Kill this ageing dinosaur. Let people go private and refund some of the NI contributions to pay for private healthcare.
Martin, UK

I remember the Tories' handling of the NHS when in power. As someone who has had to rely on the NHS over the last few years for orthopaedic surgery (I cannot thank them enough), I fear for further free treatment under the Tories. Under them we will become a nation of cripples and sick people unable to afford to be healthy. Beware of wolves in sheep's clothing!
Tim McMahon, Pennar, Wales

My wife has often had to work eleven hour shifts as a midwife, sometimes snatching a cup of tea, or if she is really lucky, eating a biscuit on the pretence of going to the toilet. Having time to clean up would be amazing, but I am sure the managers would have time to eat, and in a nice clean office.
Richard, Ipswich

Choice is not an issue here, service is
Tony, Welling, Kent
None of the parties please me on this matter, though I can confirm I will not be voting Labour. The nub of the issue is that nobody is falling for the choice issue. What they want is for their local hospitals to be infection free and supply the care they need equally with every other hospital. Choice is not an issue here, service is.
Tony, Welling, Kent

The Tories are right about how to fight hospital superbugs. Mr Blair has made it hard for the NHS to cope with these superbugs by cutting beds to such an extent that we now have more bureaucrats in the NHS than we do beds!
Jack Stone, Southend on Sea.

The Conservatives are to blame for the problems in the health service. The Thatcher years caused the drop in cleaning standards by using outside cleaners.
Dave L, Swanley England

We are the luckiest people in Europe, if not the world, to have such a fundamental part of our lives being taken care of for free. The fact that both red and blue governments have managed to keep the Health Service going is an achievement in itself, as the NHS has been in crisis since day one. In my mind the NHS is much better under Labour. Massive investment has, and will continue to work its way to the front line. Falling waiting times and reductions in cardiac and cancer patients are to be applauded. Not a good political move to use your dead mother-in-law as a political pawn, Mr Howard. Utterly disgusting!
Iain, UK

The Tories' proposals do not go far enough
Rod Colyer, Mid Glamorgan
The Tories' proposals do not go far enough. In addition to a programme to tackle the MRSA bug, they should also be tackling the non attendance at appointments by charging any person missing an appointment without informing the hospital in good, and reasonable, time, an administration fee of 5. Plus there should be a plan of action to tackle people who create a nuisance in the A&E Departments.
Rod Colyer, Mid Glamorgan

I have had a number of relatively minor operations. When in the hands of the NHS I saw a number of things that I thought could have been improved, and could be a target for Tory denigration, but I could say the same thing for other large well-run organisations such as Tesco, B&Q and so on. The treatment was always friendly and effective. Beforehand, in each case, I priced private treatment. Frightening! I am afraid that very many people would have had to do without. Vote for Tory management and you will have the opportunity to find out for yourself.
J Westerman, Leeds. UK

Michael Howard was one of the old Conservatives who systematically dismantled the NHS
Vic, Marton, UK
Michael Howard was one of the old Conservatives who systematically dismantled the NHS. With 18 years of Tory rule well and truly behind us, Britain has seen sustained investment through this government in the NHS do the opposite of the destruction to it, throughout that terrible time of the Tories. Now he wants us to believe he's Mr Nice guy. He may dupe the young, but I have a long memory.
Vic, Marton, UK

Mr Howard is a hypocrite to criticize this government for not doing any thing about MRSA in the hospitals, when they are trying they best. When the Conservatives were in power they sacked all the permanent cleaners and replaced them with contract cleaners. We should thank the Labour government for improving the NHS.
Stanley Chung, Stevenage

It's really surprising that Michael Howard has claimed that he can solve the problem of MRSA in hospitals. He served in Margaret Thatcher's government which deemed fit to contract out the cleaning of hospitals to private contractors which then re-employed the same cleaning staff at even lower wages than the low, low wages they were being paid in the first place. The private firms cut standards and gained financially.
Mary King, Dover, UK

I am an evil NHS bureaucrat. Every day, whilst taking a break from wasting taxpayers money, I stand in the shadows at the edge of hospital wards and cackle gleefully like a supervillian when patients don't get treated. Alternatively, I work long hours to do a job that I firmly believe is worthwhile and necessary, helping clinical staff to ensure that all hospitals provide the same standard of care to their patients. The British public (including myself) deserve nothing less.
Al, Liverpool

I feel like a vegetarian being offered a choice between a Hamburger and a Cheeseburger. There is much talk about choice at this election, but where is my choice as a voter? All parties want to privatise the NHS, and Labour will shortly copy the Tory policy of top up fees for the national tariffs being agreed for surgical procedures. I have been working in the NHS as a doctor for seventeen years and planned to spend my entire career in it because of the values at its heart. New Labour has destroyed that culture and I will not forgive them that. I expect to have to leave the NHS in the next few years in order to practice medicine as it should be done, rather than by government dictat. For the first time in my life I am not planning to vote (and I used to be a Labour Party Activist)
James Deane, Leicester

Last year I spent almost three months in an NHS hospital and could not fault the nursing staff, medical staff, cleanliness or even the food. What I can criticise is the mindless bureaucracy which stands in their way and consumes vast amounts of money. I look forward to reading what the final cost of the new IT system comes to, from a new home outside the UK.
Bob, Cheshire

It's quite simple with the NHS: managers won't get rid of MRSA
Chris Garforth, West Yorks
It's quite simple with the NHS: managers won't get rid of MRSA, but more cleaners will! Get back to basics! And Mr Howard: don't you think matrons have enough on with patient care? Do you want them in charge of cleaning too? Get real.
Chris Garforth, Brighouse, West Yorks.

It's just another policy based on ignorance. Michael Howard is ignoring scientific evidence (and evidence of good medical practice from other countries). But Labour are no different.
Ian Miller, Towcester

I have been a nurse for 23 years. Whatever the Tories say, I can tell you the NHS is infinitely better under Labour. I am a cardiac nurse specialist, and I can tell you that in cardiac care things are a lot better. It's not perfect but I will leave you with these examples. Under the Tories you could wait for two years for a coronary artery by-pass operation. In Manchester and throughout most of the UK there is no waiting list now. When you see the surgeon you basically book the date of your operation. Also under the Tories you could wait 18 months for an angiogram. The wait now for non-urgent cases is three months and improving. If the Tories get in God help the NHS.
Richard Baugh, Manchester

Targets have failed. Money has been wasted. We must trust the professionals not the pen-pushers.
Roger Parkes, Tunbridge Wells

Does Michael Howard think we are bereft of memory?
Chris, UK
Does Michael Howard think we are bereft of memory? Too many of us know that the Tories were responsible for wrecking the NHS. They are not to be trusted at all.
Chris, UK

How easy is it to clean a hospital? Very difficult, they are large, busy places, with more visitors every day than most places see in a year. By definition, its inmates are ill and more vulnerable to infection and been given access to germs they are not used to from strangers. Maybe, the Tories should not have given the cleaning out to the cheapest tender in the first place?
John, Workington, Cumbria

Will somebody, anybody, please talk about primary care. This is where 90% of the NHS workload takes place and the Tories have absolutely nothing to say about it, they just bang on about MRSA as if that's the only issue. Better primary care helps to keep people out of hospital and is clinically effective and cost effective.
Greg Fearn, Fife, UK

The NHS is a dinosaur - too sluggish to respond to the needs of modern people. It needs to be put out of its misery and patients allowed to opt in to private healthcare instead of having their National Insurance contributions sunk into the bottomless pit of state-managed health. The NHS is the council-house health service - let it become the provider-of-last-resort for those who don't aspire to anything better - and let the rest of the population put their National Insurance payments into private healthcare (which better fits their needs) instead.
Roger Price, Reading

I don't trust any of them on the NHS. Its quite simple, instead of each party promising to throw the most money at health why doesn't someone take a short trip across the Channel, see how the French run one of the best health services in the world and copy their example.
Adam, Stoke, England

I run a busy ward in a cardiac centre in London. Undoubtedly, I have many disagreements with Labour health policy, but remember well my first years in the NHS under a Tory government. Admittedly, I would have liked to have seen Blair reversing some of the disastrous Tory policies, but remember, they were Tory policies. Do not deliver us in the frontline back into Tory hands on 5 May.
Phil Adams-Howell, London, UK

This is nothing new...the Tories are just trying to claim it was all their idea
Dr E Saunders, Worthing, West Sussex
This is nothing new. The government has already introduced Modern Matrons in hospitals and every hospital has to have a plan for reducing MRSA infections with tough targets to be achieved. The hospitals also have to have regular inspections. The Tories are just trying to claim that it was all their idea which is blatantly not the case.
Dr E Saunders, Worthing, West Sussex

It took the Tories more than 8 years to turn the NHS into a crumbling institution, so it will take more than 8 years for Labour to redeem it to what we all want it to be - a world class healthcare service available to all, not just the privileged!
Fredric Kadec, UK

I, personally, think that we need change. I have to say, the Tory proposals are certainly more appealing than "let's pump more money in." I feel Mr Howard's manner of directly saying how they are going to deal with issues is the best way of doing it. Mr Blair keeps on throwing money at the NHS but it makes, in my opinion, no difference. We need definitive action!
Callum Lawson, Peebles, UK

The damage done by competitive tendering in hospital cleaning has been enormous. Costs were cut by cutting staff numbers and neglecting quality. This is something which the Conservatives introduced and are directly responsible for. The neglect of this crucial point is disgraceful.
Sanjiv Sachdev, Ham, Surrey

Why don't they just do away with the national insurance contributions that we all have to make and let us use that money towards paying our own private premiums? A strict "are you fit for work" procedure could be introduced to weed out the scroungers who hide under incapacity benefits. Why not also have a no work, no benefits policy? People will soon get off their back sides then.
J Payne, Maidstone

Give the hospitals back to those who know what is needed - the nurses
Paul, Highbridge UK
Matrons should be in charge of hospitals not just the wards. I work in a hospital with matrons - they try their best but they are governed by the hospital managers, who are generally not of a nursing background. Get rid of all managers and give the hospitals back to those who know what is needed for the NHS to work - the nurses.
Paul, Highbridge UK

Let's be clear. The reason why our hospitals are dirty and we have high infection is because the people we hired to staff our hospitals in the last eight years had no culture or values of clinical cleanliness. Our own trained professional clinicians are being swamped by people whose minds are elsewhere. First principle - scrub your hands with soap and brushes - do more than just show your hands to a stream of water - clean them for 5 minutes with effective cleaning agents.
Bill, England

Mr Howard is right about the targets, patients are getting forgotten after the target time of four hours, if they're not seen within that time frame they're simply moved to another ward for another four hours. But then he says he wants to close down wards to rid hospitals of MRSA. This just feels like scare mongering! MRSA has been around for generations and the NHS deals with this as best they can! How does he hope to get rid of a virus that is effectively inherent in a hospital environment and not effect the treatment of patients? Like the Tory government before he would cause more harm!
Stephen Blanchard, UK

I thank goodness for the NHS
Grateful, UK
The Conservative plan to pay 50% costs to those using private medical care isn't logical. There are a finite number of doctors, nurses and technologists. Increasing the workload of the private sector just lengthens the waiting lists in the public sector. I thank goodness for the NHS. My elderly mother's prescriptions would cost in excess of 20K per annum. No private health insurance would pay for that.
Grateful, UK

The Conservatives have the right idea. If the NHS is to survive at all the numbers of managers and regulators and other pointless red tape needs to be cleared away. Further, those arguing that when the Conservatives opened the cleaning of hospitals up to private firms this increased the risk of MRSA are incorrect. A report showed without doubt that this change did not increase the spread or risk of MRSA. Tony Blair got this wrong at the dispatch box a few months ago, and now his supporters are as usual, blindly following him.
David Mercier, Kent, UK

The Tory plans are what we need to combat MRSA and other problems in our health service. Mr Blair is too pushy with targets and statistics, we need doctors, nurses and clean hospitals - not middle-managers holding clipboards and talking business language and targets while people die in dirty, disgusting hospital wards.
Ashley Hinton, Didcot, UK

Who took the authority of Matrons away? Who ordered hospitals to put out their cleaning to for private tender? The last Tory Government of which Mr. Howard was a major player.
Julian, Wiltshire UK

Whatever the Tories did or did not do, the Labour Party has had 8 years to put it right
Stephen Allsop, Essex
Whatever the Tories did or did not do, the Labour Party has had 8 years to put it right! If any company had thrown so much money at a project and had so little return by way of an improvement in front line services, the board would have been fired by now. Whoever gets in next needs to reform the health service not just throw money at it - unless it is the direction of nurses and other unsung heroes who try to keep it all going whoever is in power.
Stephen Allsop, Essex

The PFI deals to contract out the NHS mean that public funds are being wasted as subsidies for private companies. The PFIs ought to be revoked, the money transferred to the frontlines of the NHS to expand the number of hospitals and hire more doctors and nurses. The Conservative plans aren't of any interest to me. The same as usual - continued contracting out and subsidising private healthcare.
Rhoderick Gates, Melbourne, Australia

Last year I was referred to a Coronary Care Unit for Cardiac Surgery. From diagnosis to completion took 10 weeks; the total cost, was 28,000. If Howard, Fox and Letwin get their way, new cardiac patients be asked to pay half, in my case 14,000. Come on Mr. Howard, the Tory history for the NHS was low investment, cuts in maintenance, outsourcing everything they could including quality cleaners. This way if you can pay. Wait here if you can't!
Dave, Devizes, Wiltshire.

The extra billions which have poured into the NHS have achieved little
David Jones, Peterborough
The extra billions which have poured into the NHS have achieved little. The reality is that, despite hostility from the NHS, the real benefits which have actually been achieved relate to NHS patients being treated more quickly or diagnosed more quickly by the independent sector. From the patients' perspective, quality and speed of care must surely be more important than who provides that care. Tens of thousands of people have now received treatment or diagnostic tests from independent sector providers, paid for by the NHS, for which they would otherwise still be waiting. The money used in this way has, pound for pound, achieved far more than given directly to the NHS - a bureaucratic monolith which is way past its sell by date and can only be justified on emotional and not objective grounds.
David Jones, Peterborough, UK

Our NHS provides a magnificent service considering that when the Conservatives were in power we invested less into health than any other western nation. Under the Tories, nurses were driven out of the NHS due to measly pay and cleaning went rapidly down hill when friendly hospital cleaners were replaced by cost efficient, superficial contract cleaning.
Al, UK

The Conservative initiative to subsidise 50% of the cost if a patient decides to go privately is absolutely ludicrous. They criticise the state of the NHS under Labour, yet, in proposing this policy, they will be taking vital funding away from the NHS in order to pay for private healthcare. It completely undermines the sole purpose of the NHS: Nye Bevan must be turning in his grave at the thought of these ghastly plans. It may work in the short-term, but long-term consequences will ensure the NHS is once again under-funded thanks to a Tory government. I for one don't want my taxes going towards what will escalate into a two-tier system between state care and private care. I want my taxes going to public services; meaning the Conservatives will have to jump for my vote!
Ross Thomas, Maesteg, Wales

The NHS has improved massively under Labour and the Tories always remain unconvincing on issues of health
Rob, Northfleet
The last thing the NHS needs is the shake-up the Tories are offering to nurses, doctors and support staff. The NHS has improved massively under Labour and the Tories always remain unconvincing on issues of health.
Rob, Northfleet

It is about time that power within the NHS was given back to those at the front line. As a Management Consultant, I have worked extensively with many NHS Trusts over the past 3 years and have been appalled at the amount of bureaucracy that has been created and the amount of time and money it wastes with their 'committee culture' refusing to make decisions. As a result, I believe front line has been deprived of funds to provide adequate ancillary support services with procurement decisions being made by lowest price rather than quality of service for price. Middle management back office empires are being built and protected and any investment to improve efficiencies and processes are being squandered by these inherent self-preservation societies refusing to change.
Simon, UK

Since day 1 of the NHS, the Tory party has despised the institution as a financial black hole; which has meant that they have to pay more tax. It is absolutely guaranteed that Howard will close wards, but it won't just be because of MRSA.
Al, Sunderland

The Tories are going to offer to pay 50% of the cost of private healthcare. But what use is that to millions who cannot afford to pay the other 50%? All this will do is deplete NHS resources, as those affluent people who already use private healthcare will go and claim their free subsidy at the taxpayers' expense. This is a very stupid idea, and goes to show just how little common sense is left in the Tory party.
Talib, Swansea

My wife is a nurse and regularly comes home complaining about paperwork, targets and interference that is stopping her giving patients the care they deserve. After 25 years of labour support we are moving to the Conservatives this time. They appear to have the right idea: get rid of the assessors, regulators and auditors and spend the money on the frontline.
Alan, Midlands, UK

Conservatives are about wealth generation, not social welfare
Dominic Tristram, Bath
It doesn't really matter what they say now. A tiger doesn't change its stripes - we all know that being a Conservative is about cutting taxes and services for the benefit of those with money and/or business. Is this likely to improve the NHS? Maybe. Is it likely to enable multinationals to foot the bill and then charge us all for doing so? Of course. Conservatives are about wealth generation, not social welfare. Why do people seem to forget this?
Dominic Tristram, Bath, UK

Who was it that privatised hospital cleaning services? As an ex health service employee I remember the alarming cuts made in cleaning procedures when hospital services were privatised by the Tories in the 1980s. Our department went from being cleaned every night to every other night or even less frequently if there was a shortage of sub-contracted cleaning staff. MRSA is not new. It was first identified in the early 1980s in Australia and by 1990 was well established in UK hospitals and was flagged up as a potential serious problem but Tory targets prevented anything constructive being done about it.
John Crossley, Ormskirk, Lancashire

The Tories have missed the point. Bring cleaning in house - regardless of cost. Don't just give someone "more powers" and hope the problem goes away.
Jeffrey Lake, London, UK

Let's not forget that Conservative health policies in the 1980s resulted in hospital cleaning being contracted out to private industry in the name of efficiency, thereby leading to the lowering of standards that have contributed to the current MRSA problem! Also I think hospital catering needs looking at as the quality I've seen when visiting people has been quite appalling - when you are ill or recovering, diet/nutrition should be considered as part of your treatment.
Andy Cockerill, Bristol UK

The evidence is that massive amounts of money and considerable efforts by all concerned are steadily producing results. We should take more time before breaking up a system designed to serve 60 million people.
J Westerman, Leeds, UK

The NHS is a massive undertaking and will continue to disappoint
Chris, UK
The NHS is a massive undertaking and will continue to disappoint. It simply can't keep up with an increasing and increasingly unhealthy population. Blame smokers or the obese or anyone else you like, the NHS is groaning under the strain.
Chris, UK

In 1997, when the Conservatives were in power, my father died from complications following an MRSA infection. I was an NHS manager having close dealings with cleaning contracts at that time. Those contracts were taken away from loyal hospital-employed staff and given out to private contractors. So I find it somewhat hypocritical of Howard to highlight this issue as a LABOUR failing!
Ruth, UK