Sir Richard Branson accuses labour of failing over hospital superbugs
The Virgin tycoon, who was recently appointed vice president of the Patients Association, called for all hospital staff to be screened for the superbug MRSA and receive immediate treatment if infected.
He has also said managers at failing NHS trusts should be fired.
Infection rates for MRSA are falling across the UK with the most recent quarterly figures showing a 33 per cent drop year on year, but Sir Richard is calling for far more to be done.
The entrepreneur – whose daughter Holly is a doctor – told the BBC: “There have been some improvements, but the facts speak for themselves – and the facts are still horrific.
“It feels like they have tinkered with the problem rather than really got to the heart of the problem. The hospitals are there to cure people. They are not there to kill people.”
He said the NHS could learn from the airline industry about how to avoid mistakes and improve.
“In the airline industry if we had that kind of track record we would have been grounded years ago,” he said.
“In the airline industry if there is an adverse event that information is sent out to every airline in the world.
“And every airline makes absolutely certain that that adverse event doesn’t happen twice.”
Sir Richard is helping to organise an international conference on infection control and patient safety early next year.
He argued that all hospital staff including doctors, nurses and cleaners should be checked for MRSA and treated if infected – even if that causes disruption to medical services.
He said: “You don’t necessarily have to ask them to leave the hospital while they are being treated.
“They can just not have any contact with patients for those two weeks while their treatment is taking place, and then they can come back and have contact with patients.
“That is far better than having people dying from unnecessary diseases, and all the misery and pain that that causes, and the cost to the NHS which is enormous.”
Official data from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) showed there were 725 MRSA cases in July to September, a 33 per cent drop on the same quarter in the previous year.
The number of C difficile infections in patients aged 65 and over between April and June this year also fell 38 per cent, to 8,683 cases.
Sir Richard, who became the vice-president of the Patients Association in September, called for more patient information about infection rates and a tougher standards for trust bosses.
He said: “The patient should have the right to know the track record not only of the hospitals, but the rate on wards, on departments, on surgeons, on clinicians. That shouldn’t be something which is hidden.”
“And I also think if managers of hospitals are not obeying the rules that have been set by the NHS, those managers should be replaced.”