Charlotte Leslie is the Member of Parliament for Bristol North West. Follow Charlotte on Twitter.
One of the most devastating things about the Morecambe Bay Scandal - the revelation that the Care Quality Commission (CQC) apparently buried a report raising alarms about the Furness General Hospital Maternity Unit - is that, for anyone who has spent a lot of time looking into how the top echelons of how the NHS elite work, it is diabolically shocking, but not nearly as surprising as it should be.
Indeed, one of my fears is that because the Morecambe Bay revelation is so sickening, so horrific, all focus will be attracted to investigations into just one hospital. It is imperative there is a police investigation into what went on at Morecambe, but mounting evidence also shows that Morecambe Bay and Mid Staffs are likely to be just symptoms of a worrying network of cover-up at the heart of the NHS.
Right from the very beginning of the Mid Staffs scandal, New Labour were at contorted pains to stress that this was a ‘one-off’; not representative of the health service and its target-culture reforms at all. That is why it is so important to squash what was going on at Morecambe – and, I suspect we will find, at other hospitals as well.
In March 2010, Professor Brian Jarman, who collects and analyses mortality data, wrote to the then Secretary of State, Andy Burnham, warning him that 25 Hospital Trusts had alarmingly high mortality rates. This was just before a general election. Burnham quickly passed to buck to, yes, the CQC, and conveniently, (and unsurprisingly, given what we now know) no more was said about it. In 2008, Labour Ministers and the Department of Health determinedly buried three reports they had commissioned from independent international experts which were highly damning of the NHS ‘culture of fear’. (One of these was by Don Berwick, who is now being hailed as the man to sort out our NHS.) They were only revealed after a Freedom of Information Request in 2010, after a tip-off from a concerned medic.