CQC to reveal NHS cover up names
England’s NHS regulator will name some officials accused of covering up a failure to investigate deaths of babies at a Cumbria hospital.Pressure is mounting on the Care Quality Commission to name managers who apparently blocked publication of a critical report.
The Information Commissioner said the Data Protection Act does not overide public interest in releasing the names.
The CQC said no decision had yet been formally reached. However it has said it is exploring all legal means possible to see if names can be made public.
However, Health Minister Lord Howe said those involved will be named.
Speaking in the House of Lords, he said his “understanding” was that the CQC would reveal the identities of some of the officials involved later today.
However, the CQC said no official decision has yet been made. Before the meeting, CQC chief executive David Behan confirmed he was reviewing legal advice not to reveal the names of those involved.
It follows growing pressure to publicly name those involved.
Information Commissioner Christopher Graham in the meantime has told the BBC that senior managers could not “hide behind the Data Protection Act”.
More than 30 families have taken legal action against the hospital in relation to baby and maternal deaths and injuries from 2008.
Consultants Grant Thornton were asked by the health regulator to investigate its own failure to spot the problems: in 2010, Morecambe Bay NHS Trust, which ran the hospital, had been given a clean bill of health.
Grant Thornton found that, a year after this, with more concerns emerging, an internal review had been ordered into how the problems had gone unnoticed.
In March 2012 it was decided the findings should not be made public because the review was highly critical of the regulator.
That order is said to have come from a senior manager who has not been named and who denies the allegations.
The latest report said this “might well have constituted a deliberate cover-up”.
Information Commissioner Mr Graham told BBC Breakfast: “What appeared to be going on yesterday was a sort of general duck-out saying ‘oh, data protection, sorry can’t help you’ – that’s all too common and in this case it certainly looked as if data protection really wasn’t the issue.”
He said he could not order the CQC to reverse its decision but said he was glad it was looking at the issue.
“So far as the Data Protection Act is concerned, we all have a right to the protection of our personal privacy but if you are a senior official then there are issues about the point at which your privacy is set aside because of over-riding public interest. That’s really the issue at stake here,” he said.
The 1998 Data Protection Act details how personal information is used by organisations, businesses and government. It demands that information is used fairly and legally, is accurate, used for specifically stated purposes and is kept secure.
There have been numerous occasions where data protection has been wrongly cited as a reason something should not happen.
In 2010 the Information Commissioner was forced to warn schools that they could not use it to ban parents from taking pictures of their children in nativity plays.