NHS England medical director Sir Bruce Keogh has criticised clinicians and organisations which do not gather or report quality data in the wake of the Leeds children’s heart surgery controversy.

NHS England also defended its decisions to first raise serious concerns over the performance of the service in Leeds, and then to back the resumption of services earlier this week.

At today’s NHS England board meeting Sir Bruce said the mortality data which had caused concern about Leeds was “incomplete and inadequate”.

“People undertaking surgical and other procedures in our NHS have a duty to describe what they do and define how well they do it. Otherwise, I think they forfeit some of their professionalism. This applies both to individuals and to organisations.”

Sir Bruce said that in the case of past care failures such as the Bristol and Mid Staffordshire scandals, “when confronted with data people argued and dithered over the meaning of the data, and its utility”.

“Meantime, patients were being harmed somewhere else.”

NHS England chairman Malcolm Grant pointed out that that in the case of Mid Staffordshire, intelligence had “failed to penetrate the carapace of officialdom”.

The organisation’s chief executive Sir David Nicholson was chief executive of Shropshire and Staffordshire strategic health authority, which oversaw Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust, for some of the period when evidence of poor care was emerging but not being addressed.

Sir Bruce said that in raising concerns, his “only interest was in the safety of children.” His motives have been questioned by some supporters of the Leeds unit, which faces potential closure under a national reconfiguration plan.

Sir David said NHS England had acted according to processes drawn up in response to the Francis report into Mid Staffordshire, around what to do when there are concerns over patient safety.

NHS England had “put ourselves on the side of safety”, Sir David added.

“We’re not by any stretch of the imagination at the end of this story,” he said. “There is still quite a lot of work to be done by the Leeds children’s heart centre to improve what they do, and to give both themselves and the wider community assurance.

“[However] we are assured that we’re in the right place to take that forward.”