00.01 FRIDAY 18 JULY 2003


Improvements in infections services are essential to ensure that England is better prepared to control and prevent epidemics, according to a new House of Lords Committee report.

Lord Soulsby, Chairman of the Committee, said that "The Government must act now to improve services that protect us from infection. We can never conquer infection, but we must be better equipped to fight it and to tackle infections like West Nile virus and SARS".

"Arrangements for formal collaboration between those involved in the fight against infection are poor and lines of accountability unclear. The Government should address this as a matter of urgency."

"Control and prevention of infection is not just the responsibility of Government and doctors: everyone has to play their part."

Headlines of the Committee's report are:

More Collaboration

  • The Government must work to improve collaborative relationships between all those involved in fighting infection.

  • Some emerging worrying infections are passed from animals to humans. Therefore the Health Protection Agency and the Government should ensure that experts in animal and human infection work together closely to identify and monitor those infections.

Shortage of People

  • The fight against infection needs more people. In some key areas there are too few posts even though there are qualified staff available to fill them; in others there are not enough qualified staff to fill the limited number of posts available.

  • Those organisations in charge of educating health professionals should increase the amount of education about diagnosing and controlling infection.

  • The Government should address the shortage of Environmental Health Officers who are a vital component of controlling infection.


The Government should establish a limited number of "infection centres" around the country to provide identified centres of infection expertise and to provide rapid access to infection experts.


Surveillance of infection is necessary to understand what infections exist and whether they are spreading. The Government should ensure that laboratories have sufficient resources to carry out surveillance of infection.


The Government must review its policy for vaccine procurement - England may be vulnerable in times of emergency.


1. The members of the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology (Sub-Committee I) who conducted this inquiry were:

Baroness Emerton

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff

Lord Haskel 

Lord Lewis of Newnham

Lord McColl of Dulwich 

Lord Oxburgh 

Lord Patel

 Lord Rea

Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior (Chairman)

 Lord Turnberg

Baroness Walmsley

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe

2. The report is published by the Stationery Office: Fighting Infection, House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology, 4th Report, Session 200203, HL Paper 138, ISBN 010 400262 X, price £12.50. The full text of the report will be available on the internet via shortly after publication.

3. Examples of infectious diseases include: the common cold, foodborne infections, HIV/AIDS, influenza, measles, meningitis and tuberculosis. For a comprehensive list of infectious diseases use the following link to the World Health Organisation website

4. In the United Kingdom around 70,000 people die annually from an infection. Hospital acquired infections cost the NHS an estimated £1 billion per year. Forty percent of primary care consultations result from infection.

Further information from:

Rebecca Neal

Clerk of the Committee, on 020 7219 5750

Jillian Bailey

Press and Publicity Officer (Committees), on 020 7219 8659