Tony Blair has declined to say if the Government is looking at whether new rules should be drawn up following the CJD scare at Middlesbrough Hospital last week.

He confirmed that the Department of Health and the hospital are looking at the case, after it was revealed that 24 brain surgery patients could have been exposed to tainted surgical instruments.

Questioned by The Northern Echo at a Downing Street press conference, the Prime Minister said the discovery that a patient at the hospital had CJD had not been suspected by neurosurgeons.

Mr Blair said: "This was a fairly unusual case and obviously I totally understand the concerns that people have, though hopefully the possibility of infection is slight, though not negligible, as the hospital itself said. I heard the hospital comment on it and say they followed the guidelines in their entirety.

"We will obviously have to look at that very carefully because I understand that the unusual feature of this case was that the neurosurgeons actually did not suspect a link with CJD but the consultant pathologist, I think it was, did."

He said the Department of Health was looking at this with the hospital.

"I think you will find this was just a highly unusual case."

A spokesman for the Department of Health said the Government's Chief Medical Officer had asked the regional director of public health, Dr Tim Kirkup, to report shortly. "His report will ensure that any measures necessary to improve local procedures or strengthen national policy are taken."

The spokesman pointed out that only five cases of CJD worldwide have been caused by the re-use of neurosurgery instruments after operating on the brain of a CJD patient.