Thursday, June 20, 2013

Tragedy, and an intolerable cover up, at FGH

The tragedy of a number of deaths of mothers and babies at Furness General Hospital (FGH) in Barrow was terrible enough.

The emergence of evidence that the Care Quality Commission, the NHS regulator, conspired to cover up what had happened is beyond unacceptable. An independent review has revealed that senior officials at the health watchdog suppressed a report that highlighted failings at the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust.

It appears that both deaths and severe mismanagement at the Morecombe Bay health trust occurred over a number of years, These deaths are too important and too tragic to be used as a party political football: the cases in the public domain of deaths at FGH which may possibly have been avoidable took place while the previous government was in office but although the top brass at the trust and the CQC have changed since then we cannot afford to assume that the culture lower down has changed with them.

The new chairman of the CQC, David Prior, has admitted that the breach of public trust was so serious that

“We can have no confidence, I think, not just at Morecambe Bay but across many more hospitals, that we have done a proper job.” He also admitted to the BBC that the CQC was “not set up then, and we’re not fully set up now, to investigate hospitals”.

Apologising in the House of Commons for what had happened, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that the failings at Morecambe Bay had been

“a terrible personal tragedy for all the families involved”. “A culture in the NHS had been allowed to develop where defensiveness and secrecy were put ahead of patient safety and care,” he said. “I want to... ensure this kind of cover-up never happens again.”

Names of those accused of a cover-up within the CQC were removed from the independent report, commissioned by the watchdog and carried out by management consultants Grant Thornton.

But Mr Hunt said that neither he nor the chair of the CQC had wanted the names to be witheld and may now ask the Information Commissioner to rule on the decision.

“There should be no anonymity, no hiding place, no opportunity to get off scot free for anyone at all who was responsible for this,” he said.

You can currently see Jeremy Hunt's statement to the House in full on the BBC website here.


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