Apology to Burnham over emails

The Department of Health has apologised to Labour's Andy Burnham over the release of confidential emails he claims were used to smear him, ITV News has learnt.

Dept of Health apology over Burnham 'smear' emails

by - Political Correspondent

The Department of Health has apologised to Labour's health spokesman Andy Burnham over the release of confidential emails he claims were used to smear him, ITV News has learnt.

The Department of Health has apologised to Andy Burnham. Credit: PA

The Health Secretary Jermey Hunt suggested in a tweet last week that the emails, published in the Daily Mail, showed his predecessor had attempted to cover up failures at the Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals Trust.

Andy Burnham is considering legal action over what he claims was an unprecedented smear. Now, the Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health, Una O'Brien, has written to him saying they should have consulted him before releasing the emails.

"I am sorry that on this occasion, the protocol was not properly observed and I apologise both on behalf of the Department and the CQC for this lapse."

She goes on to say: "My investigations have revealed that this was a genuine oversight on the part of officials but nonetheless unacceptable."

The Health Secretary Mr Hunt denies he was questioning Mr Burnham's integrity.

Yesterday, Mr Burnham learnt that he was keeping his job as Shadow Health Secretary in Labour's reshuffle.

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Tories claim 'overwhelming evidence of cover up'

A Conservative health spokeswoman has said there was "overwhelming evidence that Labour ministers leant on the Care Quality Commission (CQC) watchdog" to "tone down and cover up NHS failure for political purposes".

However, Labour has asked Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, to substantiate his claims that Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham hid hospital failings in a "cover up".

"It is high time he (Mr Hunt) focused on his real job and the unfolding A&E crisis instead of orchestrating a smear campaign without evidence," a party spokesman said.

Breakdown of email data in Labour 'cover up'

Here is a breakdown of what email data showing the Department of Health under the Labour government attempted to stop details emerging of a hospital scandal contained:

  • Emails released by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) watchdog under freedom of information laws showed the Department of Health ordered the CQC not to brief the press on an inspector's report into the trust, which found appalling standards of hygiene.
  • But by then the CQC had already told three national newspapers the report was impending and the story was being published by the Press Association.
  • The CQC report into Basildon detailed major concerns about unusually high death rate among patients.
  • Inspectors found blood stains on floors and curtains, blood splattered on trays used to carry equipment and badly soiled mattresses in the A&E department with stains soaked through.

Read: Email data makes Burnham's position 'untenable'

Email data makes Burnham's position 'untenable'

New email data showing the Department of Health under the Labour government attempted to stop details emerging of a hospital scandal makes Andy Burnham's position as Shadow Health Secretary "untenable", according to the Tory MP who instigated the release of the details.

Steve Barclay requested the information from the Care Quality Commissions (CQC) watchdog, relating to Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Barclay said that Burnham, who was Health Secretary at the time, was "putting pressure on the regulator to water down its concerns".

But Mr Burnham insisted the emails showed only that "my concern stemmed from the fact that CQC/DH rules had been broken.

"Further, the note records that I ordered a press release, in accordance with proper process, be issued later that day."

Burnham asks Hunt to apologise over 'cover up' claims

Andy Burnham has asked Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, to substantiate his claims that the Labour MP hid hospital failings in a "cover up".

He said he was concerned that disclosure rules had been broken and challenged Mr Hunt to apologise.

It is impossible to see how you can claim this mounted to a cover-up," he told him in a letter.

I therefore ask you, by the end of today, to provide me with evidence to substantiate your assertion.

If you fail to provide such evidence, I will require a full retraction and public apology. If that is not forthcoming I will consider further action.

– Andy Burnham MP, Shadow Health Secretary

Read: Andy Burnham denies hospital 'cover up'

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Andy Burnham denies hospital 'cover up'

Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham has denied trying to prevent a hospital failings scandal becoming public knowledge when he was serving as health secretary in 2009.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has denied ordering a 'cover up' of hospital failings.
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has denied ordering a 'cover up' of hospital failings. Credit: PA

Emails released by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) watchdog under freedom of information laws showed that the Department of Health under Labour tried to stop details emerging of a hospital scandal involving higher-than-normal death rates.

Jeremy Hunt, the current health secretary, described the emails as "shocking revelations on Andy Burnham's attempts to cover up failing hospitals" but Burnham accused Hunt of launching a "smear campaign without evidence" against him.