A ‘super-regulator’ for health and adult social care services is to be established, with the power to close down underperforming hospital wards.
Health secretary Alan Johnson said the Care Quality Commission would have a key role in tackling and preventing Healthcare Associated Infections (HCAIs) and strengthen the current system of regulation.
The commission will replace the existing Healthcare Commission, the Commission for Social Care Inspection and the Mental Health Act Commission.
The watchdog will have the power to carry out annual infection control inspections, increase the frequency of checks for hospitals with high rates of HCAIs, and take action to close down wards if necessary.
The annoucement comes in the wake of controversy about cutting levels of outbreaks of superbugs like MRSA and Clostridium difficile.
Johnson said it was important NHS staff felt confident enough to report any concerns they had about their workplace.
“The regulator will have tougher powers to inspect and even close wards in order to protect patients and service users. NHS staff, such as matrons, nurses and porters, who spend every day on the wards, need to feel able to report concerns to the new regulator,” he said.
Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the British Medical Association, said: “Closing wards and hospitals because of quality and infection control issues should be a very last resort and this situation should be preventable if local trust boards work effectively to ensure that issues such as poor staffing levels and high turnover of patients are addressed.”