Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

Police to probe watchdog 'cover-up'

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

Police are investigating whether any criminal offence may have occurred during a cover-up at the health watchdog.

Cumbria Police said it would examine the Care Quality Commission's latest report which detailed how officials may have suppressed a damning internal review into the watchdog's inspections at Furness General Hospital.

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, which runs the hospital, where a number of mothers and babies died.

A police spokesman said: "Cumbria Constabulary is considering the content of the lengthy CQC report that was released last week. A dedicated team of detectives will examine the report in detail and decide whether any further action is required. We will keep the Metropolitan Police informed as appropriate.

"We are committed to examining the report thoroughly, and it takes time to do this properly. We anticipate examining the report will take three weeks."

The news comes after a former director of operations at the CQC claimed he was sacked after raising serious concerns about the way the watchdog was run.

David Johnstone said he was escorted off the premises then hit with a gagging order after putting together a plan to introduce fundamental changes in the organisation.

Mr Johnstone said he had refused to make superficial changes and claimed the CQC had always put "spin" as a high priority.

He told Victoria Derbyshire BBC Radio 5 Live: "I saw problems around the annual health check, I saw problems around how the organisation managed itself, I saw problems around how the headquarters was so dysfunctionally divorced from the operational side of services so what I did is I tried to introduce a plan of improvement."

Mr Johnstone joined the organisation two months after it was created and was in post for just 13 weeks before he was sacked. He found that systems needed to be improved "right across the board" and came up with about 12 recommendations to overhaul the watchdog that would take two years to introduce.

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