By a friend:
Andy Burnham’s car crash with Newsnight’s Kirsty Wark is well worth a watch:
A very tetchy Shadow Health Secretary began the interview by admitting “there is a role for the private sector”, then piled into the Tories for putting “all services” at the hands of the market. As Kirsty politely pointed out, only 6% of NHS services have been outsourced to the private sector, and the vast majority of that was done by Burnham’s Labour government:
“The second thing is you have to look at and compare what these opposition parties have been doing down south. The £20bn cuts in the English health service were initiated by Andy Burnham, the Labour Health Secretary. They are being implemented by the Tory Liberal coalition. So their agenda in the health service they are in charge of south of the border has been an agenda of cuts. Ours has been an agenda of financial protection and investment for the health service. So I’m not in any way going to entertain any lessons from any of the three unionist parties about money and investment in the health service because their track record has been extremely poor.”
Former health secretary Andy Burnham says he has no regrets over his handling of the Stafford Hospital scandal, despite a barrage of criticism from opposition Tories headed by Prime Minister David Cameron.
Mr Burnham appointed Robert Francis QC to find out went wrong at Stafford between 2005 and 2009, when hundreds of patients died needlessly and appalling standards of care were widespread.
However campaigners blame him for blocking the inquiry from being held in public – a decision that was reversed by the Tories – and for setting up a smaller and more limited investigation.
But in an interview with the Express & Star, the 43-year-old former health secretary defended his record.
He mounted a strong and passionate defence of his actions and said he believes his worst fears about the impact of a public inquiry on the hospital have come true – that it was not given enough support to get through the crisis and is now facing a multi-million pound downgrade.
Labour MP Andy Burnham has faced calls to explain whether he influenced a watchdog accused of failing to properly investigate a series of baby deaths at a hospital.
The former health secretary was accused of being a member of a government which let “cultures of secrecy and putting targets before patients” take root in the NHS.
Mr Burnham, who is now the shadow health secretary, was asked whether he put pressure on the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to tone down its criticism of hospitals at the time a “whitewash” report gave Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust a clean bill of health in 2010.
The health watchdog has been accused of later covering-up the failure to properly investigate the deaths by suppressing a critical internal review.
Tory MP Morris said there were “serious questions for Labour to answer” particularly in relation to Mr Burnham’s time in office.
He asked Mr Burnham: “How much ‘pressure’ did you put on the CQC to ‘tone down’ its criticism of hospitals? You were the Labour Secretary of State for Health, when the first whitewash inspection of the Morecambe Bay NHS trust occurred in the spring of 2010.
“This was a crucial pre-election season for you. The chair of the CQC at the time, Baroness Young, later said that health ministers – including you, who she specifically named when giving evidence on Mid Staffs – had put the regulator under ‘pressure’ to ‘tone down’ criticism of hospitals around that period.
“What was she referring to? What is your recollection of these events? Do you now regret your role in suppressing NHS whistleblowers in early 2010?”
He asked what conversations former CQC chairs Cynthia Bower and Lady Young had with Mr Burnham and other Labour ministers about Morrecambe before the regulator gave it a clean bill of health in 2010.
“In the interests of full transparency, will you publish all your official and personal emails, texts, letters, and any other relevant communications including minutes of meetings from that period in which the CQC was discussed, or at which CQC officials were present, during your tenure as Health Secretary?”
He also challenged Mr Burnham on the “generalist” inspection model for the CQC, which saw people with backgrounds outside the health service sent into hospitals.
Mr Morris asked if the shadow health secretary stood by criticisms of the new regime, including a chief inspector of hospitals, put in place by the Government as “heavy-handed regulation”.
Concerns about the maternity unit at Furness General Hospital in Cumbria, run by the Morecambe Bay trust, came to light in 2008 but the CQC report in 2010 gave it the all clear.
In March 2011, Cumbria Police launched an investigation into a cluster of maternity deaths at the trust.
Later that year Louise Dinely at the CQC was tasked with reviewing the organisation’s regulatory decisions for the trust.
But last year the official was ordered to delete the report because it was “potentially damaging to the CQC’s reputation”, according to the latest independent investigation.
Ms Bower and press officer Anna Jefferson are alleged to have “verbally agreed” when deputy chief executive Jill Finney ordered the cover-up. All three deny the claims.