Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

'We got it wrong' on NHS cover-up

Care Quality Commission chairman David Prior said he 'got that call completely wrong'

Bosses at the crisis-hit health regulator have admitted that they "got it wrong" when they omitted the names of senior executives alleged to be involved in the cover-up of a critical report.

The Care Quality Commission's (CQC's) latest report detailed how officials might have suppressed a damning internal review into its inspections at Furness General Hospital.

The critical report said the body failed to properly investigate University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital where a number of mothers and babies died.

Three senior executives - former chief executive Cynthia Bower, her deputy Jill Finney and media manager Anna Jefferson - have been accused of agreeing that the report should be deleted, which they have strenuously denied.

But when the independent report into the alleged cover-up was first published, the names of the trio were redacted - a move made after the CQC received legal advice suggesting that publishing the names could breach data protection laws.

Amid mounting pressure to name those involved, officials sought new legal advice and decided to publish the names.

Appearing before the Health Select Committee, CQC chairman David Prior said he "regretted" the error, adding: "I got that call completely wrong. I accept that criticism."

Chief executive David Behan said: "I made the decision. I clearly got that wrong."

Ms Bower and Ms Jefferson are alleged to have "verbally agreed" to cover up the internal report under the instruction of Ms Finney because it was "potentially damaging to the CQC's reputation".

Mr Prior said: "I really bitterly regret that mistake. The presumption in the CQC now is that we will always publish unless there is an overpowering reason why we shouldn't. We got it wrong and there is no point hiding behind legal advice. We should have put the names out straight away and we didn't."

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