David Cameron visited NHS hospitals today to highlight a new plan to drive up care standards.

Under the initiative announced by the Prime Minister, nurses will be told to undertake hourly ward rounds while members of the public will be allowed to inspect hospitals.

Mr Cameron said most patients are happy with NHS care but there have been well publicised cases of patients not getting good basic treatment on issues such as food and drink or being treated with respect.

The Prime Minister, accompanied by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, toured Salford Royal Hospital in Greater Manchester, which he called a "model" hospital, where he met patients and talked to nurses, sisters and matrons, praising the general level of nursing care in the NHS.

He said: "I think the standard is very high, in the overwhelming majority of cases people rightly revere our nurses in Britain, but it's quite clear in a limited number of cases standards have fallen below what is acceptable, we have seen that in CQC (Care Quality Commission) reports, we have seen it with our own experiences as constituency MPs, elderly relatives not getting the care they need. And so what we need to do is make sure that doesn't happen.

"Here in Salford we are getting hourly nursing rounds where patients are asked every hour about whether there are any problems, making sure we have patient-led inspections of hospitals, making sure we have simple service where we ask patients and staff, 'Would you be happy for your relatives to be treated in this hospital?'

"Making sure that managers of hospitals, the boards of hospitals, look at the quality of care above everything else, simple straightforward things that are done here in the best hospitals in our NHS, but need to be done everywhere else."

The Government has pledged to "put right" the problems after the CQC found issues with dignity and respect for patients in hospitals up and down the country.

The Prime Minister said hourly ward rounds, the system already running at Salford Royal, had decreased the number of falls by patients, bed sore complaints had gone down and hospital infections were "rock bottom".

He added: "This is a fabulous example of the best of our NHS by putting care, the quality of care, the quality of nursing before everything else and we need to do that in every hospital in our country."

Both the Prime Minister and Health Secretary followed infection control instructions to wash their hands, roll their sleeves up and tuck their ties into their shirts as they toured the wards.

As he scrubbed-up, Mr Cameron asked nurses: "How to get your children to wash their hands, any tips on that?"

Mr Cameron had a meeting with a group of matrons to talk about providing leadership on wards and excellence in patient care.

Charlotte Barrett, a ward matron, then gave him a tour of one ward where he spoke to patient Julie Lawrence, 51, from Leigh, near Wigan, about the hourly ward rounds and the Prime Minister was then accompanied by Karen Coverley, a nursing director, to speak to patient Deborah Bates, 45, from Bolton, to see how bedside computer systems were cutting down on paperwork.

Mr Lansley asked nurses what sort of things patients were telling them or asking for after hourly rounds were introduced.

Sister Jane Kingham told the Health Secretary a regular request from patients was: "Can I have another brew?"

In October, the CQC found a fifth of NHS hospitals are breaking the law on care of the elderly.

Its study also found half of hospitals are failing to provide all-round good nutrition to elderly patients while 40% do not offer dignified care.

Of 100 hospitals investigated in England, 49 were found to generate minor, moderate or major concerns about nutritional standards for elderly people.

Patients will also lead inspections of hospital wards, with local people becoming part of teams assessing cleanliness, dignity and nutrition.

A new "friends and family test" will also ask whether patients, carers and staff would recommend their hospital to friends and family.

The results will be published and hospital leaders who fail the test will be held to account.

The Prime Minister was also visiting Blackpool Victoria Infirmary later today.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: "People have learnt from bitter experience to take David Cameron's pronouncements on the NHS with more than a pinch of salt.

"This is the man who promised no top-down reorganisation of the NHS but then brought forward the biggest in its history.

"This is the man who is wasting £3.45 billion on back-office restructuring while axeing 48,000 nursing posts."

Mr Burnham called on the Prime Minister to axe the "unnecessary" revamp of the NHS in England, adding: "His reckless decision to reorganise the NHS at this time of financial challenge not only proves he is out of touch but also threatens to throw the entire system into chaos."