DOCUMENTS which could shed light on claims that hospital targets led to the deaths of Lincolnshire patients will be kept secret.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has rejected Sleaford MP Stephen Phillips’s call to publish the alleged evidence to assess the need for a public inquiry.
The MP said he has seen leaked documents which he claims seem to show staff may have made mistakes because of the increasing pressure they were put under.
And the paperwork allegedly suggests United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust chief executive Gary Walker was pushed out for putting patient safety above bureaucratic box ticking.
But Mr Lansley has written to Mr Phillips stating it is “not in the gift” of the Department of Health to issue “all relevant material” to help him decide the merit of a public hearing.
He said similar allegations from 2009 about bullying of senior staff to enforce targets were investigated independently.
And he urged caution when comparing the trust with the situation in Staffordshire. A 2009 Healthcare Commission report exposed appalling standards of care and a higher than expected death rate at Stafford Hospital.
Mr Lansley wrote: “On October 28, 2009, the report of the review cleared NHS East Midlands of all allegations made against it in respect of its handling of performance at United Lincolnshire Hospitals.
“I would caution against drawing any parallels between circumstances at the trust and those at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.
“In 2010, departmental officials passed on to the Care Quality Commission a letter from Gary Walker, which expressed his concerns about patient safety at United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust.
“These concerns were taken into account in CQC compliance monitoring work, and prompted an unannounced inspection.
“The compliance report, published on August 24, 2010, stated CQC did not have any significant concerns about patient safety at the trust.”
Mr Lansley added that a further review last year, centred on Pilgrim Hospital, Boston, “did not suggest that the issues at the trust were of the same nature as those found at Stafford Hospital”.
Mr Phillips is now looking to get a further response from Mr Lansley during a House of Commons debate later this year.
He said: “I am concerned that the response from Mr Lansley doesn’t fully address all of the points that I raised.
“But I understand the department’s reluctance to reinvestigate matters that have been looked at previously,” said Mr Phillips.
“I have been trying to get an adjournment debate in the Commons, but I wasn’t successful in the ballot before recess.
“I can’t enter again until the House comes back in the autumn.”
Mr Phillips’s letter relates to the enforcement of the national 18-week GP referral to hospital treatment target in Lincolnshire.
The monitoring of the measure was abolished by the Government in June 2010.