Andy Burnham denies NHS cover-up
Former health secretary Andy Burnham has insisted he was "actively" working to identify problems at hospitals during his time in office after being accused of putting pressure on a regulator to tone down criticisms.
The senior Labour MP faced questions about whether he influenced the Care Quality Commission (CQC) at the time it gave Morecambe Bay NHS Trust a clean bill of health despite a series of deaths of mothers and babies at Furness General Hospital.
But the shadow health secretary insisted that "far from covering up any problems at hospitals" he had asked the CQC to publicly identify organisations with weaknesses.
Morecambe Bay was given the all clear in a "whitewash" inspection by the CQC in 2010 but the health watchdog has been accused of later covering-up the failure to properly investigate the deaths by suppressing a critical internal review.
Morecambe and Lunesdale's Tory MP David Morris wrote an open letter to Mr Burnham demanding answers over his time in charge at the Department of Health. In his letter, Mr Morris said events at Morecambe Bay and the similarly scandal-hit Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust were a "tragedy".
"The worst part of it for the families, is that many of these shocking events could have been avoided. It is only now that the difficult truth is coming out and we are starting to understand the terrible consequences of the twin cultures of secrecy and putting targets before patients, which took hold under the last Labour government," he wrote.
Mr Morris said there were "serious questions for Labour to answer" particularly in relation to Mr Burnham's time in office and the "crucial pre-election season" in 2010.
He asked what conversations former CQC chairs Cynthia Bower and Lady Young had with Mr Burnham and other Labour ministers about Morrecambe before the regulator gave it a clean bill of health in 2010.
In his reply Mr Burnham said the position regarding the CQC was the "precise opposite" of what Mr Morris had claimed. He said one of his first decisions as health secretary was to appoint Robert Francis QC to conduct an independent inquiry into what went wrong in Mid Staffs.
Mr Burnham said he also took steps to deal with the CQC after the Department of Health raised concerns about its effectiveness.