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Hunt says sorry over 'hospital cover-up' tweets
HEALTH secretary Jeremy Hunt has apologised to the Labour Party after allegations of a cover-up over failings at Basildon Hospital.
He wrote to Andy Burnham to say: “Whatever our differences on health policy, I do not doubt your personal integrity,” after leaked e-mails showed the former health minister tried to stop a damning Care Quality Commission report being published in 2009.
The letter comes after Mr Hunt responded to the allegations by tweeting “shocking revelations on Andy Burnham’s attempts to cover up failing hospitals.
We’re legislating to make sure this can never happen again.”
Labour threatened legal action unless the Tory health secretary issued a public apology or presented evidence to support the cover up claims.
Gavin Callaghan, Labour councillor for Pitsea North West, slammed the Tories for using the fears of Basildon residents as part of an “ongoing smear campaign”.
He said: “There is absolutely no basis for covering up the problems at Basildon Hospital.
Andy Burnham openly spoke about the concerns in Parliament and was in regular contact with the MP Angela Smith.
“It is the most shocking and manipulative allegation I have ever seen in politics. From our point of view this is part of an ongoing smear campaign. We have got big ideas about health and social care and the Tories are using the fears of people in Basildon to retract that.
“When taken in isolation emails can mean a manner of different things. I work closelywith Andy and he is absolutely convinced he could not have done anymore than he did.”
Furious Tory MPs called for an investigation to be launched into the e-mails, which were released under a Freedom of Information request.
Stephen Metcalfe, who represents South Basildon and East Thurrock, said: “The suppressing of the report wasn’t necessarily a personal decision by Andy Burnham, but the failings of Basildon Hospital go back way beyond 2009.
“There was obviously a culture of not wanting to face up to the failings or challenges and I don’t knowwhat was motivating that. Whether it was a specific minister of the Department of Health, no one wanted to accept the problems. In the last three years we have made significant improvements at Basildon Hospital at every level. You have to face up to the problems and say that wasn’t good enough."
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