NHS scandals show 'rotten' culture

Andover Advertiser: Health minister Dan Poulter said 'at Morecambe Bay, like Mid Staffs, a rotten culture took hold' Health minister Dan Poulter said 'at Morecambe Bay, like Mid Staffs, a rotten culture took hold'

A health minister and qualified doctor said recent NHS scandals were the sign of a "rotten" culture which needed to be tackled.

Dan Poulter said "institutional secrecy" was put ahead of patient safety in hospitals and at the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The watchdog has been at the centre of a row over allegations it covered up a failure to properly investigate University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust where a number of mothers and babies died.

Dr Poulter linked the Morecambe Bay events to the findings of a public inquiry which discovered hundreds of patients at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust might have died needlessly after they were "routinely neglected".

In an article for the Daily Telegraph he said: "At Morecambe Bay, like Mid Staffs, a rotten culture took hold. Both at the hospital where patients were supposed to be cared for, and the regulator which was supposed to be championing the vulnerable, the elderly and the sick. Again and again, a desire not to face up to the reality of poor care saw institutional secrecy put ahead of patient safety."

The minister's intervention came as the Labour MP whose constituency includes the hospital at the centre of the Morecambe Bay allegations called for a full independent inquiry to begin. John Woodcock, whose seat contains Furness General Hospital, said: "The latest evidence on the CQC cover-up show why the stalled independent inquiry into failings at Morecambe Bay should begin right now and be widened to include the CQC cover-up in March last year."

Mr Woodcock said he has written to Bill Kirkup, chairman of the proposed inquiry, asking him to begin work as soon as possible. He added: "The more questions that are raised about this murky business, the more important it becomes to investigate it further - including who outside the CQC was aware and what they did."

Two former health secretaries have faced questions over their actions in connection with the CQC. Former Labour health secretary Andy Burnham denied putting pressure on the CQC to downplay concerns about hospitals at the time it gave Morecambe Bay a clean bill of health in 2010. He told Sky News's Murnaghan programme: "The central allegation that I was ... trying to say, 'don't do anything, don't say anything, don't bring any problems out, keep them all hidden', is fundamentally disproved by the decisions I took in relation to the expediting the registration of hospitals."

His successor, Tory Andrew Lansley, was also forced to deny allegations in relation to the CQC, insisting he had not threatened to sack a whistleblower. Mr Lansley was accused of telling Kay Sheldon he was considering her dismissal after she warned a public inquiry in 2011 of problems at the watchdog.

But the former health secretary, still in the Cabinet as Leader of the Commons, told Sky News: "What was being represented to me by the CQC was that her position was one of not meeting the requirements of a member of the board and that the board itself was unable to do its work. Now that was a matter for them and I looked at it very carefully and the conclusion I reached was that I shouldn't dismiss her from the board, and I didn't do that, and she had the protection under the Public Interest Disclosure Act of being a whistleblower and I recognised that."

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