MRSA and false teeth make Blair squirm on television

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair was thrown on to the defensive over health and crime yesterday in a two-hour grilling by voters.

At a Sky News question-and-answer session at University Hospital, Coventry, Rebecca Russell told Mr Blair that she was infected with MRSA after a Caesarean at Birmingham's City Hospital.

"They never told me," she said. "And when we asked them, they still denied it. And now I am here with an open wound which could take 12 months to heal." Her mother, Sandra McKellar, told Mr Blair: "It has been covered up ... You are not getting the right total, how many people have contracted MRSA."

Mr Blair replied: "The important thing is to make sure that we are actually taking the measures that are going to reduce the possibility of getting it."

The Prime Minister's most painful moment came when confronted by Valerie Holsworth, a 64-year-old cleaner who removed seven of her teeth with her husband's pliers after they were loosened bygum disease. She told him: "It would be nice for somebody to take them out properly." Three foreign dentists brought in to her home town of Scarborough proved unsatisfactory, she added.

Mr Blair responded: "I can't suddenly just produce more dentists. We have to train them. We are actually opening new dental training schools. It takes time."

Mr Blair hinted that the Government may cut NHS targets. He told a GPs' representative: "After some years' experience, it is probably time to sit down and work out how we can operate these more flexibly."

Despite the tough questions, a show of hands showed a majority of the audience believed the extra money pumped into the NHS had made a difference.

An hour later in Leicester, another studio audience tackled Mr Blair over crime, police on the beat, and victim protection.

Suleman Nagdi, of the Federation of Muslim Organisations, told Mr Blair that anti-terrorism laws and stop and search were creating an "atmosphere of fear" in the Muslim community.