When David Cameron first addressed Parliament on the Francis Report, he told MPs that he didn’t want to seek scapegoats. Some of his MPs were disappointed that the Tory leadership wasn’t going after Andy Burnham or Sir David Nicholson. Well, the latter has left, and the former is looking vulnerable in a forthcoming Labour reshuffle, and for months the gloves have been off. After gaining access to a dossier of emails suggesting that Labour tried to stop the Care Quality Commission informing the public about failings at Basildon Hospital, Tory MP Stephen Barclay, who has been digging away on this for months, has called for Burnham to resign. He said:
‘Labour tried to cover up failing hospitals before the last General Election. Andy Burnham told the House of Commons in July there was no shred of evidence of political interference with the health regulator.
‘But these emails show a clear paper trail of political meddling – leading back to him. He needs to correct his statement when Parliament returns on Monday. Andy Burnham owes a big apology to the patients and families who suffered, and he should resign. No one will ever trust Labour with our hospitals again.’
Meanwhile Conservative MP Stephen Metcalfe, the local MP for one of the hospitals involved, has written to Sir Jeremy Heywood to call for an investigation into whether the civil service code has been breached. You can read the letter below. The knives are clearly out for the Shadow Health Secretary – and if MPs are calling for him to resign just before a reshuffle, it suggests they want to leave him wounded in the run-up to the 2015 election, rather than leave his post.
Tags: Andy Burnham, Labour, NHS, UK politics
Dear Sir Jeremy,
I am writing to ask that you investigate whether the Civil Service Code was breached during the release, in the run up to the last General Election, of a report into failures of care at Basildon and Thurrock University Hospital in Essex.
Like many others I was shocked to read reports in the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail this morning relating to the failures in care at these hospitals.
In 2009 inspectors from the CQC discovered hospitals with worryingly high death rates and evidence of blood on curtains and catheters left on floors.
The very least families of patients treated in these conditions deserve is a thorough investigation and the assurance that such failures would not happen again.
However, the evidence presented this morning suggests that Andy Burnham, then Health Secretary, and his team, attempted to manipulate the release of CQC reports into failures of care for political gain.
Already several health experts having testified that the Department of Health under Andy Burnham was ‘a denial machine’, in the words of Professor Brian Jarman. A former Chair of the CQC, Dame Barbara Young has described ‘huge government pressure’ for her organisation not to criticise the Government. The release of these new emails confirms that senior figures within the CQC felt pressure from the Department of Health.
I am deeply concerned that civil servants came under undue political pressure from the front bench Labour team and those associated with them, who were nervous about the proximity of the General Election.
I ask you to investigate whether any breaches of the Civil Service Code took place.
I look forward to your earliest response.
Member of Parliament
South Basildon & East Thurrock