Another stunning lack of self-awareness from Andy Burnham, who has some nerve putting his name to this article in today’s Mirror:
“the Government publishes all the bad news about the NHS on the same day in the hope that it will minimise the negative headlines. It’s a cynical attempt at news management from a Tory Government that knows the NHS is going backwards on their watch. And it shreds Tory claims to be committed to transparency in the NHS.”
“Minimise negative headlines,” you say? “A cynical attempt at news management”. Oh really?
Let’s remember how, as Health Secretary, Burnham and his deputy allegedly told the Care Quality Commission to “tone down” a report into hospital deaths because it would be too “political” before an election. This is from the Guardian’s write up at the time:
“Burnham, then health secretary, had questioned why he had heard “graphic details” about Basildon hospital’s treatment of patients on Sky News before he had been briefed about it in December 2009. The agreed protocol was that his department was told in advance of such reports and CQC officials were told he was “furious” about the breach.
Two months later with an election looming, Burnham’s deputy Mike O’Brien also cautioned the regulator that “anything you do is going to be political whether you intend it to be or not. And of course once we reach March (2010), purdah, whenever that starts, you can’t publish anything”.
Perhaps most damaging is the CQC’s own interpretation of ministerial wishes. Following the meeting with O’Brien a former non-executive director Martin Marshall at the CQC discusses the publication of the 2010 State of Care report, which summarised of the regulator’s findings in health and social care during the year.
In an email to former chief executive Cynthia Bower and her deputy Jill Finney a few months before the 2010 general election, he warns about “the politics”. “It is really important that we get this report absolutely right before sending anything to the department … The DH will go through this with a toothcomb and it is naive to think that they will really only do a factual check”.
Marshall said there was a need to be “careful about language” and suggests “being hard-hitting without presenting critical data will … be more politically acceptable than criticising with evidence”.”
Burnham’s your man for cynical news management to prevent negative NHS headlines…