The government is using the Mid Staffordshire scandal to soften up the health service for privatisation, the shadow health secretary has said.

Mr Burnham made his comments during a speech to NHS staff and trade union representatives following his appearance at the NHS Confederation Conference in Liverpool last week.

He said: “The Francis report was terrible, but it was a local failure and they [the government] are trying to say it’s happening everywhere. They are softening it [the NHS] up for privatisation.”

Andy Burnham

Andy Burnham said the government wants a “blackout on the NHS before the election”

This statement appears to be at odds with the findings of Robert Francis QC, who said it was safe to assume the events at Mid Staffordshire were likely to be replicated throughout the NHS and that unless the system of oversight and regulation was overhauled could be repeated in the future.

In his final report Mr Francis said: “Stafford was not an event of such rarity or improbability that it would be safe to assume that it has not been and will not be repeated or that the risk of a recurrence was so low that major preventative measures would be disproportionate.

“The consequences for patients are such that it would be quite wrong to use a belief that it was unique or very rare to justify inaction.”

A spokesman for Mr Burnham told HSJ that Labour supported implementing all of the 290 recommendations.

“Andy Burnham was repeating the report’s conclusion about failures of the local board,” he added.

“He has always said that the lessons must be learnt across the whole system.

“That’s why we continue to call on the government to implement the Francis report in full.

“But what [Mr Burnham] objects to are the sweeping generalisations from the Conservative Party, which have damaged morale and raised fears about the government’s privatisation agenda.”

Mr Burnham also told NHS staff: “We are in a fight for the future of the NHS”

He argued the government’s decision to reject a 1 per cent pay deal was “all part of undermining the NHS and getting one group turned against each other”.

“They could have found the money easily if they wanted to. It was a calculated insult,” he told the NHS employees.

Mr Burnham said he was worried the coalition government wanted a “blackout on the NHS before the election”, adding he wouldn’t let that happen and repeated his pledge to repeal the Health and Social Care Act.

Commenting on Labour’s time in office, Mr Burnham told staff “we did let the market in too far” but promised them, “I will make the NHS the preferred provider.”

Mr Burnham said he would support staff in the fight against the government and said he was committed to the national Agenda for Change pay framework and national negotiations on staff pay, terms and conditions.