Health Policy

09.10.13

Cover-up accusations about culture, not Burnham – Hunt

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has responded to Andy Burnham’s threat to take legal action over a tweet he sent last Friday, saying it was not meant to suggest a “personal cover-up” by the former Labour health secretary.

Instead it was the culture over which Burnham presided, where bad news about the NHS was ‘discouraged,’ that he intended to criticise, Hunt said, following revelations about the way a CQC briefing about Basildon Hospital was handled. 

In a letter, of which a photo was posted by Hunt on Twitter, he wrote: “The impact of this culture was disastrous for the NHS because ‘bad’ news did not emerge quickly and the public were kept in the dark about poor care. As a result, problems were not addressed rapidly with terrible consequences for patients.” 

He added: “Robust and at times heated exchanges of views between politicians are par for the course in a healthy democracy. 

“I am, of course, very happy to debate the above with you at any time, but I believe that as elected politicians the right place for us to do so is in Parliament or the media, rather than the courts.” 

Hunt had initially tweeted about “Shocking revelations on @andyburnhammp’s attempts to cover-up failing hospitals”. 

Burnham responded by writing a blog on Labour List calling it an “unfounded attack on my integrity” and said: “I am not prepared to let it go.” 

Burnham said he was considering legal action. 

Former health minister Mike O’Brien, who is standing for Parliament for North Warwickshire at the next election, was also mentioned in the CQC emails revealed under FoI. He was quoted in the Tamworth Herald as saying: “The facts show that Labour ministers did the opposite of what is alleged. When problems at Basildon and Thurrock hospital first emerged, Andy Burnham made a full statement to Parliament and ordered an in-depth investigation of every hospital in England to be completed before the General Election. 

“Action was also taken to improve the internal running of the CQC which supervised hospitals. When a decision about Basildon Hospital was made, a CQC press officer, unauthorised and without the agreement of the senior leadership of the CQC, briefed three media outlets before notifying the Department of Health. This was not normal practice and it left the Department unable to respond to the other press enquiries that it received. 

“In relation to me, their allegation puts two and two together and manufactures five. It’s untrue.” 

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at opinion@nationalhealthexecutive.com

Comments

Practice Manager   09/10/2013 at 13:11

Hopefully Hunt has overstepped the mark this time and will be forced to resign.

Chris   09/10/2013 at 13:19

I have little confidence or liking for any of the parties involved in this spat, but I am absolutely sure that Jeremy Hunt is an unfit person to be Secretary of State for Health. He is an ambitious and ruthless politician who cares nothing for people in general, let alone patients in particular. The man is a disgrace.

Ex Healthcare Commission   09/10/2013 at 13:24

Hunt is justified in his perception of Labour cover up. Healthcare Commission was abolished because it was an independent auditor. First CEO of CQC was conflicted as involved in Mid Staffs. Scandal of NHS management and poor patient care in many places is WORSE than the bankers.

Lancarich   09/10/2013 at 15:15

It is laughable that Mr Hunt is complaining that information has been supressed. I have seen no publication in the press as to what he is doing to the NHS, enforcing GPs to bid for services they provide in practice to their patients, this process is open to anyone including private companies who want to bid to provide services, thus resulting in groups of GPs getting together to become private companies to ensure that they will be able to run the services from their practices.

Max Moullin   09/10/2013 at 20:00

Jeremy Hunt is right to call for a culture of openness and candour. However how does he expect to encourage health and social care professionals to be open about their problems if he insists on naming and shaming the 'worst' hospitals in Parliament? What the NHS does not need is a blame culture coming right from the Secretary of State.

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