Michael Howard, the Tory leader, pledged to abolish all NHS waiting lists and wipe out the MRSA "superbug" by giving matrons the power to overrule NHS chief executives and close dirty wards.

Michael Howard, the Tory leader, pledged to abolish all NHS waiting lists and wipe out the MRSA "superbug" by giving matrons the power to overrule NHS chief executives and close dirty wards.

Mr Howard vowed not to let Conservative ideology or bias obstruct his determination to improve the NHS.

Writing in today's Guardian, Mr Howard says: "Freedom for professionals and the right to choose for patients will mean that, by the end of the next parliament, there will be no unnecessary waits for hospital treatment. Waiting lists will become a thing of the past."

Proposals for a powerful matron in every hospital, responsible for cleaning and infection-prevention measures, are contained in the party's health manifesto. Mr Howard will unveil proposals today to force hospitals to publish department-by-department details of hospital-acquired infection rates.

Last year, about 100,000 people contracted MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, in hospitals. Rates of the infection, which causes 5,000 deaths a year, are said to have trebled in the past decade.

Tories say a single person should be responsible for hygiene and infection control in each hospital, with nurses ensuring that cleaning is adequate in wards. They argue that hospital inspection teams should be given greater power to order the closure of wards affected by infections to stop managers overruling recommendations.

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