Political point-scoring over MRSA means that policies to tackle the superbug are failing to address the issue, experts said today.
The Government's focus on pleasing the public "means its policies are missing the point", it was claimed.
Politicians have seized on public fears about the health implications of unclean hospitals, but have failed to address the real problem of unclean hands among hospital staff.
"With a General Election looming, all major political parties in the UK have seized on public fears about the health implications of unclean hospitals to fuel arguments over rising rates of infection with MRSA," it was claimed.
"This tit-for-tat political posturing has certainly helped keep health in the public eye.
"But none of these policies reflect the real failure in UK hospitals: non-adherence to basic infection control."
The comments were made in The Lancet medical journal, which said that the Netherlands had "managed to virtually eliminate MRSA with a search and destroy approach to infection control".
In an editorial, The Lancet said: "If there are numerous MRSA carriers visiting health facilities, infection-control measures are unlikely to work.
"At the end of last year, Health Secretary John Reid set a new target to reduce MRSA bloodstream infections by half by 2008, mainly through cleaning up hospitals.
"But the document produced to back up this approach contains only scant mention of the main vectors for MRSA transmission: the hands of health-care providers.
" Evidence shows that housekeeping programmes are unlikely to have an overall effect on transmission of MRSA unless essential infection-control practices the use of glove and hand-hygiene are prioritised.
"The attention on MRSA and hospital cleanliness has made hospital-acquired infections an election issue.
"But the Government's focus on pleasing the public means its policies are missing the point."