Summer Adjournment

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:29 pm on 25th July 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of John Woodcock John Woodcock Independent, Barrow and Furness 3:29 pm, 25th July 2019

What a pleasure it is to follow such a compelling speech from Stewart Malcolm McDonald. It is to his great credit and of great use to the House that he raised the issues that he did. The plight of Ukraine is too often forgotten about entirely or put to one side by the whole of the west, and this Chamber no less. He is absolutely right to raise the highly suspicious death of Elena Grigorieva. The brutality of the way that she was clearly targeted speaks volumes about the threat to those who are prepared to speak up in Russia and the danger that they put themselves in by speaking up for human rights or by opposing Putin’s regime. We must do more in this Chamber and in this country to oppose the lawlessness and dictatorial nature of that regime.

In this final debate before recess, I want to raise very serious concerns about the current conduct of my hospital trust, the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust. Many Members will unfortunately be familiar with the way that the trust was engulfed in a scandal regarding maternity and neonatal deaths over a number of years and with the incredibly difficult process of drawing the culture in Morecambe Bay from being one of the suppression of the truth—of closing ranks around practitioners—into openness. The effort to do that had to be led by grieving families, in the main.

The Kirkup report in 2015 was groundbreaking and had the full support of the former Health Secretary, Mr Hunt, who is now returning to the Back Benches. It drove forward patient safety and transparency right across the NHS, so it is of huge concern that very serious concerns and allegations are now surfacing about the neurology department in Morecambe Bay and about the way that, it seems, the trust is treating a man who was a very highly respected consultant for many years within that department. He felt forced to retire a number of years ago and this week, he published a book, “Whistle in the Wind: Life, death, detriment and dismissal in the NHS—A Whistle-blower’s Story”. I urge the Minister to get word to the Health Secretary to instruct his officials to read that and perhaps to look at it personally. The author makes deeply alarming allegations of malpractice over several years, a number of which concern consultants who are still working in that department. He details a process where he was, in his view, singled out over a period of 10 years, accused anonymously of racism and felt forced to leave the trust.

It is right that these allegations are treated fairly and without prejudice to either side, but what is not right is the way that the trust is seemingly not learning the lessons of transparency. It is refusing FOI requests made by our brilliant local newspaper, which has led the way on this matter. We all owe a debt of thanks to Amy Fenton, a reporter who is just not taking no for an answer. She is being told time and again that she cannot have information from the trust. The Health Secretary must look at this, and I hope that he will come back to us when the House comes back in September.