MP demands answers after NHS ‘cover up’

Dr Dan Poulter.
Dr Dan Poulter.

Morecambe Bay’s scandal hit health trust must “prove beyond doubt” that services in its hospitals have been transformed.

David Morris, MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, said that the recent revelations about the alleged cover-up at the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in relation to baby deaths at Furness General Hospital, run by University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust (UHMBT), had sent shockwaves through the Lancaster district.

His comments were echoed by health minister and qualified doctor Dan Poulter, who said recent NHS scandals were the sign of a “rotten” culture which needed to be tackled.

Mr Poulter said “institutional secrecy” was put ahead of patient safety in hospitals and at the CQC.

Mr Morris said: “The revelations...brought fresh pain to families already struggling to come to terms with devastating losses.

“There are many questions left to answer.

“The hospital must prove beyond doubt that services have been transformed since the scandal.

“The leaders of the local health authorities at that time - supposedly in charge of performance-managing the hospital - must come clean on what they knew about the suppressed CQC report.

“The regulator itself must provide urgent assurances that those responsible for this sickening cover-up face career-ending consequences as well as the full force of the law.”

The CQC, the health watchdog formed in 2008, has been at the centre of a row over allegations it covered up a failure to properly investigate UHMBT’s Furness General Hospital in Barrow, where a number of mothers and babies died.

The cover-up centres on whether a critical report of the trust, which also runs the Royal Lancaster Infirmary, was subesquently deleted.

An independent review found that three CQC officials had backed the suppression of a 2011 internal report into CQC’s failure to spot the scandal.

Then CQC chief executive Cynthia Bower, deputy chief executive, Jill Finney, and media manager Anna Jefferson deny any attempted cover-up.

Ms Finney suggested that a lack of sufficient resources meant it was “always going to be a very, very tall order” for the CQC to do its job effectively.

Cumbria Constabulary announced on Monday that it is considering the content of the CQC report that was released last week, which would take around three weeks.

But South Lakes MP Tim Farron said afterwards that families should not have to wait for three weeks to find out if the police will investigate.

The former chairman of the CQC, Baroness Young, has also made very serious allegations that ministers “leaned on” her to “tone down” criticism of NHS organisations.

She claims that “there was huge government pressure, because the government hated the idea that a regulator would criticise it”.