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Mulholland demands apology from NHS England over their attempts to thwart accountability over bungled children’s heart review decisions

June 26, 2014 11:19 AM

MP for Leeds North West, Greg Mulholland, has called on the Chief Executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, to now set the record straight and apologise for the organisation's mistakes and attempts to thwart accountability.

Mr Mulholland grilled Mr Stevens during his first appearance before the Public Administration Select Committee in an evidence session on accountability of quangos, like NHS England.

Mr Mulholland questioned Mr Stevens about the rash knee jerk decision to halt surgery at the Leeds Children's Heart Unit based on flawed and incomplete data, NHS England's longstanding and failed attempt to block the Freedom of Information request from Yorkshire and Humber Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee and the overall bungled Safe and Sustainable review.

Mr Stevens admitted that the 2013 suspension wouldn't happen now due to better processes, which is a clear admission that Sir Bruce Keogh was wrong to march into the unit and shut down surgery, threatening senior Leeds Teaching Hospital Trust staff with dismissal if they challenged his decision. Sir Bruce Keogh then misled the public by claiming in the media that LTHT themselves made the decision to suspend surgery. Mr Mulholland, who at the time called upon Sir Bruce Keogh to resign, asked Mr Stevens for NHS England to not only admit they would do things differently now, but to have the decency, as accountable public servants, to admit they were wrong and to apologise.

Mr Mulholland also asked if NHS England believed in accountability, which Mr Stevens was keen to claim they did, why then did they persistently block the Yorkshire and Humber Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee's Freedom of Information request; Mr Mulholland again asked Mr Stevens to apologise for this.

Mr Mulholland then asked why those who were involved in the bungling Safe and Sustainable decision making process (the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts) were still involved in the NHS and in some cases in the future decision making on heart surgery in the UK. The opaque decision which the JCPT made was declared flawed and illegal and displaying an arrogant attitude by the Independent Reconfiguration Panel. Mr Mulholland has said this is unacceptable and that NHS England - and the Secretary of State for Health - should ensure that none of them play any part in the new review into heart surgery for children and adults in England and Wales.

Commenting after the evidence session, Mr Mulholland said:

"Accountability is integral in Public Administration and this was the perfect opportunity to discuss the previous poor decision making and disgraceful attempts to thwart democratic accountability by the quango, NHS England, with their new Chief Executive.

"It is disappointing that Mr Stevens seemed unprepared to discuss the catalogue of mistakes and the disgraceful attempts by the quango to thwart democratic accountability.

"The reality is that the rash, knee jerk decision by Sir Bruce Keogh to force a suspension of surgery at the Leeds Children's Heart Unit, threatening to sack people if they refused, put patients at greater risk. It is sad that neither he nor NHS England has the courage to apologise for this.

"It is also time that we had a clear admission from Mr Stevens, who seems clear to want to wipe the slate clean, that NHS England's protracted attempts to thwart Cllr John Illingworth and the Yorkshire and Humber Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee Freedom of Information request. Just a few weeks ago, on the 12th May, a judge ordered NHS England to hand over information about the controversial decision to shut Leeds children's heart surgery unit. It was disgraceful that this quango sought to prevent the democratic body appointed to scrutinise this decision to do its work. If Mr Stevens wants to have any credibility for his claim that he does believe in accountability and if he wants to restore the damaged reputation of NHS England over these series of fiascos, he must now have the guts to apologise".