Suffolk/UK: MP says NHS scandals show ‘rotten’ culture

Dr Dan Poulter

Dr Dan Poulter - Credit: Archant

A Suffolk MP has said recent NHS scandals were the sign of a “rotten” culture which needed to be tackled.

Dr Daniel Poulter, a health minister and a qualified doctor who still works part-time in NHS hospitals, 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, Conservative MP for North Ipswich and Central Suffolk, 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 wrote: “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.

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“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.

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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.

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.

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