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Police probe urged into cover-up

Families affected by a watchdog cover-up into mother and baby deaths at a hospital have called for police to investigate the scandal.

It comes a day after an independent review claimed that a failure by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to investigate the deaths at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust stretched all the way to the top of the organisation.

James Titcombe, whose son James died at Furness General Hospital when he was nine days old in 2008, called for the police to interview former CQC chief executive Cynthia Bower and other senior colleagues from the era.

Ms Bower and press officer Anna Jefferson are alleged to have "verbally agreed" when deputy chief executive Jill Finney ordered the cover-up. All three deny the claims.

Mr Titcombe told BBC Radio 4's the World At One: "My view is that the police should now interview these people and carry out an investigation to understand what happened.

"The act of covering up and deleting the internal review raises issues which have been widely talked about as approaching a criminal act and I think those circumstances need to be formally investigated."

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt suggested those responsible for the cover-up could be stripped of their pensions.

He described the suppression of the report as "utterly shocking" and said that the way the regulator was set up in 2009 had been "a big mistake". He also said he would back the regulator "absolutely to the hilt" if it chose to take action against individuals, including some who have left the organisation.

Concerns about the maternity unit at Furness General Hospital in Cumbria came to light in 2008, but the CQC gave the Morecambe Bay trust, which runs the hospital, a clean bill of health in 2010.

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