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Exclusive: CQC Morecambe Bay probe handed to lawyers

An investigation into the Care Quality Commission’s involvement with the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust was due to be handed to the watchdog’s lawyers on Friday, HSJ can reveal.

The probe carried out by auditing firm Grant Thornton was commissioned by the CQC in September last year and was sent to external lawyers acting for the regulator on Friday.

HSJ understands the report was completed a number of months ago but has been delayed due to legal issues.

It is expected to have examined the role the regulator played in the registration of UHMBT and what it knew of care quality concerns before the trust was registered in April 2010.

It is now known that CQC staff in the north west regional team were concerned in December 2009 about systemic problems at the trust.

Grant Thornton was also asked to examine the relationship between the CQC and the Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman after allegations former chief executive Cynthia Bower tried to persuade the ombudsman from launching an investigation into the trust.

A spokesman for the CQC said: “We understand that today (Friday) Grant Thornton will send [the report] to external CQC lawyers.

“When they are assured that it is something that can be made public it will be sent to the chief executive [David Behan] who will share it with the CQC board and then it will be published. There is no date for when that will happen.

“As of now [Friday] no one at the CQC has read it.”

He said he could not comment on suggestions any delays in the report were due to legal issues.

The review was commissioned after criticism from the Health Select Committee last year that a June 2010 inspection missed problems in the trust’s maternity department and the then CQC director of operations Amanda Sherlock defended the inspection as “robust”.

The terms of reference were later extended to include the relationship between Cynthia Bower and the PHSO after allegations emerged surrounding an unminuted conversation Ms Bower, who resigned from the CQC last year, had with parliamentary and health service ombudsman Ann Abraham in the summer of 2009.

Documents obtained by James Titcombe, whose son Joshua died in the maternity ward at Morecambe Bay’s Furness General Hospital in October 2008, suggest Ms Bower and Ms Abraham discussed whether the ombudsman needed to investigate Joshua’s death.

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