Health minister Dan Poulter has linked the NHS scandal in Morecambe Bay to the previous care scandal in Mid Staffordshire, saying in both cases a “rotten culture” took hold at the hospitals.

Dr Poulter said this culture, in which “institutional secrecy” was placed ahead of patient safety, had also extended to regulator the Care Quality Commission.

The watchdog has been at the centre of a row over allegations it covered up a failure to properly investigate University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust, where a number of mothers and babies died.

Dr Poulter linked the Morecambe Bay events to the findings of a public inquiry which discovered hundreds of patients at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust might have died needlessly after they were “routinely neglected”.

In an article for the Daily Telegraph he wrote: “At Morecambe Bay, like Mid Staffs, a rotten culture took hold. Both at the hospital where patients were supposed to be cared for, and the regulator which was supposed to be championing the vulnerable, the elderly and the sick.

“Again and again, a desire not to face up to the reality of poor care saw institutional secrecy put ahead of patient safety.”

The minister’s intervention came as the Labour MP whose constituency includes the hospital at the centre of the Morecambe Bay allegations called for a full independent inquiry to begin.

John Woodcock, whose seat contains Furness General Hospital, said: “The latest evidence on the CQC cover-up shows why the stalled independent inquiry into failings at Morecambe Bay should begin right now and be widened to include the CQC cover-up in March last year.”

Mr Woodcock said he has written to Bill Kirkup, chairman of the proposed inquiry, asking him to begin work as soon as possible.

He added: “The more questions that are raised about this murky business, the more important it becomes to investigate it further - including who outside the CQC was aware and what they did.”