The former boss of the Care Quality Commission is among those allegedly involved in a cover-up of the health regulator’s failure to investigate a spate of baby deaths.
Ex-CQC chief executive Cynthia Bower was present during a discussion about deleting an internal review which criticised the CQC’s inspections of University Hospitals of Morcambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, where a number of mothers and babies had died.
Ms Bower has insisted she “gave no instruction to delete” the report and “would have countermanded” such an instruction.
But she admitted that as the watchdog’s boss at the time: “The buck stops with me.”
Ms Bower’s then deputy Jill Finney and media manager Anna Jefferson were also present when the issue of deleting the report was discussed, a CQC spokesman said after the regulator backtracked on a decision to hide the names of those involved.
Louise Dineley, the author of the review, told independent investigators that Ms Finney had ordered the deletion, and Ms Bower and Ms Jefferson had “verbally agreed”.
Ms Finney said allegations that she was involved in a cover-up were untrue. She said she had provided a copy of the internal review to the independent Grant Thornton review team “at the outset”.
Her current employer, internet firm Nominet, has sacked her as chief commercial officer because of “increasing public scrutiny” over her former role.
Ms Jefferson, who is still employed by the CQC, said she was “devastated” to be implicated in the scandal. “I would never have conspired to cover up anything,” she said.
Their names had initially been redacted from the report, published on Wednesday, following legal advice to the CQC.
However, the regulator’s current head, David Behan, said a decision was then made to identify them “in the public interest”.
There had been mounting pressure for those involved to be identified and he said it was wrong to have withheld the names.
He told Sky News: “A decision which reviewed the involvement of the organisation … should have been made in an open and transparent way.
“We failed some people who had trust in our judgement. I think it’s absolutely essential that we begin to restore public and political confidence in the CQC.”
The independent report suggested that CQC bosses were so concerned about protecting the watchdog’s reputation that they ordered the internal review to be deleted because it showed their original inspection was flawed.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he was “very pleased” the individuals had now been named.
He said: “It’s a sign that the NHS is changing.
“There has been a history of cover-ups for many years but there has to be accountability within the NHS for people’s actions when something goes wrong.
“It’s to the credit of the new management of the CQC that they got an independent report and did not run away from this problem.”
Concerns were first raised about the trust in 2008, but in 2010 the CQC gave the trust, which serves 365,000 people in south Cumbria and north Lancashire, a clean bill of health.
Joshua Titcombe died in 2008 aged just nine days old in Furness General Hospital after staff failed to spot and treat an infection.
His father has previously described news of the cover-up as “shocking”.
Ms Bower has resigned from her current post as non-executive trustee of the Skills For Health body after being implicated in the scandal.
Article source: http://news.sky.com/story/1106243