Nicola Sturgeon stressed that hospital cleanliness must improve
Health boards across Scotland are to be given tougher targets to tackle the Clostridium difficile (C.diff) bug, the health secretary has announced.
Nicola Sturgeon told the SNP conference in Perth that NHS boards must reduce the rate of the infection in hospitals by at least 30% by 2011.
She also said NHS bosses would be told they are to be barred from putting cleaning services out to contract.
Ms Sturgeon said tackling hospital infections was one of her key goals.
She told the conference that when she commissioned a report into a C.diff outbreak at Vale of Leven hospital, it made "grim reading."
She said: "Infection rates in all our hospitals are too high.
"Hospital infections cause pain, distress and suffering for patients and for their families.
"And they undermine confidence in out health service.
"That is why nothing is more important to me personally than driving down hospital infections."
Ms Sturgeon said that MRSA rates were falling and she wanted to see the same progress in tackling C.diff.
"This is a tough target, a very tough target, and the very highest standards of hospital cleanliness will be required to meet it," she said.
She also confirmed that the appointment of outside cleaning firms for hospitals would no longer be allowed.
"On Monday morning, a letter will issue from my department to all health boards advising them that from now on, there will be no further privatisation of hospital cleaning and catering services anywhere in Scotland," she said.
Speaking after her address to conference, Ms Sturgeon said: "The public must have confidence in their NHS and know that they're going to get the best possible care whenever they need to go into hospital.
"That's why tackling the problem of healthcare associated infections (HAI) is a key priority for this government."
She added: "The latest statistics show C.diff cases in Scotland have been reduced by 7% on the previous quarter and the challenging target I'm announcing clearly demonstrates our commitment to build on this progress."