Reid promises clean-up to tackle superbug

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An end to two-tier hospital cleaning contracts was promised yesterday by John Reid as part of efforts to combat the superbug MRSA inwards.

An end to two-tier hospital cleaning contracts was promised yesterday by John Reid as part of efforts to combat the superbug MRSA inwards.

The Health Secretary told the conference that all contractors will be instructed within weeks to pay cleaning staff at least the NHS minimum wage of £5.69 an hour. They will also be told to end the practice of allowing lower-paid cleaners to work alongside higher-paid staff.

"Cheapness can never be a substitute for cleanliness,"said Mr Reid. On this subject the Health Secretary faced criticism from Jacky Clarke, a TGWU member, who opposed the use of private contractors and healthcare clinics.

The threatened clash over the modernisation of the NHS with greater use of private health care largely fizzled out after Mr Reid made it clear he would not back down from providing "choice" for NHS patients free at the point of need. He also announced there will be a further shift of resources to "areas of need" when the budgets are allocated.

The NHS will also demand cuts running into millions of pounds in the cost of drugs from pharmaceutical companies in November, Mr Reid added. The savings would be ploughed back into the health system.

He confirmed the Labour election manifesto will carry a commitment that no NHS patient would be waiting longer than 18 weeks by 2008. This will apply from the moment the patient visits the family doctor, rather than the first referral to a consultant and should end what he referred to as "hidden" waiting lists.

The Health Secretary told delegates that when he was researching his family roots he discovered that his grandfather was the illegitimate son of a labourer and a woman who worked in a bleaching factory. "Their grandson is now in the British Cabinet," he said.

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