Socialist Worker

NHS officials accused of covering up investigation into Furness maternity deaths

by Sarah Ensor
Issue No. 2359

At least 15 newborn babies and three mothers died at Furness General Hospital between 2002 and 2009

At least 15 newborn babies and three mothers died at Furness General Hospital between 2002 and 2009 (Pic: Anthony Sinton)


A new report accuses Care Quality Commission (CQC) bosses of covering up a critical report into patient care at Furness General Hospital in Cumbria. 

The CQC is an NHS watchdog, which is supposed to oversee care in Britain’s hospitals.

The three managers accused of the cover up are Cynthia Bower, Anna Jefferson and Jill Finney. Jefferson is still CQC’s media manager. 

She reportedly said of the results of the original investigation in 2011, “Are you kidding me? This can never be in a public domain”.

That investigation was triggered by a family member’s complaint and a whistleblower at the CQC. 

At least 15 newborn babies and three mothers died and 38 babies were stillborn at the hospital between 2002 and 2009. 

These figures are much higher than would normally be expected. 

The hospital became part of Morecombe Bay NHS Foundation Trust in 2010.

David Prior took over as chair of the CQC earlier this year. He admitted that it was “not set up then—and we’re not fully set up now—to investigate hospitals”.

The CQC, set up in 2009, was designed to help hospitals become foundation trusts. It relied mainly on data supplied by hospitals themselves—allowing NHS managers to police themselves.

The CQC’s budget was two thirds less than its predecessor, the Healthcare Commission. The number of inspections was cut by 70 percent. 

Yet the CQC was responsible for inspecting 400 NHS Trusts, 9,000 dentist surgeries, 8,000 doctors’ surgeries and 18,000 care homes.

Cynthia Bower, chief executive of CQC, finally left in September 2012 with a pension of £1.35 million. Her salary had been £204,000 a year. 

Bower had been chief executive of the West Midlands Strategic Health Authority from 2006. 

This should have investigated the high death rates at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust—but it didn’t. 

Up to 1,200 people may have died unnecessarily there due to neglect and poor treatment between 2005 and 2009.

Tory health minister Jeremy Hunt is using disasters such as at Furness and Stafford hospitals to discredit the NHS and its staff. 

The Health and Social Care Act means every NHS service must now be offered to private companies.

The doctors’ BMA conference this week condemned Hunt in a no confidence vote. 

Kambiz Boomla, a GP in east London, said, “CQC was prepared to ride roughshod over all clinical concerns to help the Department of Health reach its targets”.

Defend the NHS national protest, Sunday 29 September, outside the Tory Party conference in Manchester 

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Tue 25 Jun 2013, 18:18 BST
Issue No. 2359
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