Baby deaths at Northern Hospital, did Healthcare Regulator cover up failings?

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Posted 20/06/2013

A review reports that England’s healthcare regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) may have attempted to cover up their own failings and in so doing have left patients at a Northern hospital at risk from poor practice that is thought to have resulted in baby and maternal deaths and injuries.The review was asked to look at the CQC’s response to an unusual number of deaths at Furness General Hospital. Complaints had been made to the CQC following the deaths of three babies and two mothers, but the commission gave the Morecombe Bay Trust who ran the hospital a clean bill of health in 2010. A year later, with more concerns emerging, an internal review was set up to explore how the problems had gone unnoticed. In 2012, a decision was made not to make the findings public, allegedly because the review was so critical of the CQC.The report just published has been complied by a consultancy firm who were instructed by the CQC. It has concluded that there may well have been a deliberate attempt to cover up the earlier review because it criticised the CQC. This latest report has, however, also acknowledged that the trust and regional health bosses had not given the CQC all the information about the problems that they should have. However, the present CQC chairman has said the failures of the commission are shocking and that the regulator was “not fit for purpose and had been dysfunctional.” Since that time the board and senior executives have been radically changed.Trefine Maynard, a clinical negligence solicitor at Ashtons Legal, says: “Yet again the CQC has been found wanting.  It would appear that despite being asked to review this trust in 2010 against a background of growing concern about deaths and injuries in the maternal unit, it failed to investigate properly and identify the underlying problems.A further chance to investigate, and even more importantly correct, the underlying problems was missed when the subsequent review was it seems brushed under the carpet. This is a further failure of the regulatory system and a further betrayal of the public who place their trust in both the health care trusts running the hospitals and the CQC. It sounds as though once again they have lost sight of the fact that the healthcare system, whether through the Hospital trust or the regulator, is there to provide the best possible care for patients, not to protect their own interests. 

Those affected by these failures will feel understandably and rightly that their trust has been betrayed. In our experience, those who suffer avoidable loss or injury at the hands of medical professionals find that their initial pain is redoubled when there is a failure by those involved in the NHS to acknowledge and react to mistakes and failures.”


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