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Investigation call over new Basildon Hospital "scandal"
BASILDON’S former Labour MP has called for a full investigation into allegations the party covered up failings at Basildon Hospital.
Newly-released e-mails, released under a Freedom of Information request from the Tories, show health ministers stopped the Care Quality Commission releasing devastating findings following an inspection in 2009.
Baroness Angela Smith, who was Basildon MP at the time, insisted problems at the hospital were always made public, but accepted the claims should be looked into further.
Meanwhile, Tory MPs Stephen Metcalfe and John Baron have demanded the Labour Party and the commission are made to answer tough questions.
E-mails show the Department of Health told the commission not to publish a report in November 2009 which showed patients were dying from poor care at Basildon Hospital.
Blood was found on curtains and chairs and catheters were left on the floor, but the hospital, in Nethermayne, still displayed a good rating on the watchdog’s website.
Baroness Smith said: “If there is any truth in the allegations, then of course there needs to be a full investigation. I was in constant contact with Basildon Hospital at the time and if there was ever any bad news it was always out in the open.
“If there is a suggestion of some kind of cover-up then it was a pretty poor one. It is somewhat strange as it doesn’t fit in with my experience at all.
“Hiding the problems at Basildon Hospital would not benefit anyone as we can only solve problems by being honest about them.”
In one e-mail, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Jill Finney, then director of engagement at the commission, sent in November 2009, said: “We arguably sat on a highly sensitive safety issue for six months before informing patients and the public who believe they ‘have a right to know’.
“We knew that the commission had been looking at the trust for a long time and that we had had concerns about poor care since May.”
Despite Labour’s attempts to stop the damming report going public in November, three newspapers had already been briefed.
Then health secretary Andy Burnham was said to be “furious”
at the media coverage which followed as it broke Department of Health and the commission’s “rules”.
A commission spokesman said: “We can’t comment on e-mails sent some years ago between people who are no longer involved with the Care Quality Commission.”
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was threatened with legal action by Labour at the weekend, as the row over claims of a cover up at the hospital escalated.
Labour’s health secretary in 2009 Andy Burnham has brought in the party’s lawyers after Mr Hunt refused to retract allegations that Mr Burnham was involved in a cover-up.
The party has written to the cabinet minister warning of potential legal action, claiming the Tories are conducting a smear campaign – but the ruling party refused to take a step back
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