NHS 'cover-up' names revealed by CQC
- 20 June 2013
- From the section Health
Officials alleged to have been involved in an NHS regulator's cover-up of failures over deaths of babies at a Cumbria hospital have been identified.
The Care Quality Commission has named former chief executive Cynthia Bower, her deputy Jill Finney and media manager Anna Jefferson.
They were all said to be present at a meeting where deletion of a critical report was allegedly discussed.
Ms Bower and Ms Jefferson have denied being involved in a cover-up.
Ms Finney has had her employment terminated from her new job, chief commercial officer at Nominet which controls the .co.uk web domain. She has not yet commented.
David Behan, the CQC's current chief executive told the BBC the organisation needed to "restore confidence".
He added: "We need to demonstrate openness and transparency - and revive the trust of the public, patients and politicians."
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeted following the naming of the officials: "Pleased to receive CQC letter naming the individuals involved. Clear sign NHS is changing. We must have accountability throughout the system."
The three officials were not initially named when claims first surfaced on Wednesday.
But the CQC was forced into a U-turn amid mounting pressure from ministers and the information commissioner.
The allegations of a cover-up emerged in a report by consultants Grant Thornton, commissioned by the CQC after a new leadership team was appointed last summer.
The report said the three officials attended a meeting in March 2012 with the author of an internal report detailing the CQC's monitoring of Furness General Hospital.
Grant Thornton found that in 2011 an internal review was ordered into how problems had gone unnoticed.
But the author of the report - Louise Dineley, CQC head of regulatory risk and quality - said that in a meeting in March 2012 with the three officials named she was told to delete the report by Ms Finney and that Ms Jefferson and Ms Bower had "verbally agreed".
Ms Dineley claimed Ms Finney, who has now left the CQC, said "read my lips" when she gave the instruction.
The Grant Thornton report concluded this "might well have constituted a deliberate cover-up".
The allegations have been denied by those involved.
Ms Bower said she "gave no instruction to delete" the internal review, but added that as the boss of the healthcare watchdog: "The buck stops with me."
In a statement issued to the BBC, Ms Jefferson, who is still an employee of the CQC, said: "I am a new mother myself and the thought of what the families who have lost babies at this hospital have gone through is heartbreaking.
"I would never have conspired to cover up anything which could have led to a better understanding of what went wrong in the regulation of this hospital.
"I am so appalled that I have been implicated in this way."
The CQC had given the hospital - run by Morecambe Bay NHS Trust - a clean bill of health in 2010 despite problems emerging about the maternity unit .
More than 30 families have now taken legal action against the hospital in relation to baby and maternal deaths and injuries from 2008.
In a statement about Ms Finney, Nominet said: "The increasing public scrutiny over our CCO's former role at CQC has made it impossible for her to continue with her role and responsibilities at Nominet.
"With regret, we felt it necessary to terminate Jill Finney's employment with immediate effect."