POLITICS
16/07/2013 21:16 BST | Updated 15/09/2013 10:12 BST

David Cameron Accuses Labour Of 'Cover Up' Over Hospital Failings

The Prime Minister has accused Labour of a "cover up" over hospital failings.

David Cameron said that it was "right" to expose problems at the hospital trusts which have high mortality rates.

Speaking during a visit to Lincoln, Mr Cameron said: "Where we have problems, and clearly there have been problems at these hospitals, the right thing to do is not cover that up as the previous government did, but to be open and frank about it and, as we've done, put those hospitals into special measures to give them assistance to make sure that performance improves."

Earlier today Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that Professor Sir Bruce Keogh's report into 14 hospitals with high death rates represents Labour's "darkest moment" as he sought to blame former health secretary Andy Burnham for the failings.

Mr Hunt claimed Labour was more concerned about its own reputation than exposing failings in the NHS when it was in government.

He said: "If founding the NHS is considered Labour's proudest achievement, today is their darkest moment as a Labour government is exposed as caring more about its own reputation than our most vulnerable citizens in the NHS."

Mr Burnham faced cries of "resign" from the Tory benches as he stood to reply to Mr Hunt in the Commons.

Turning to Mr Hunt, he said: "This report is about your Government and failings happening now on this Government's watch.

"Anyone who supports the NHS must always be prepared to shine a spotlight on its failings so it can face up to them and improve.

"But in so doing, it must be fair to staff and the NHS as a whole. And I am pleased it looks as though (Sir Bruce) is fair in his report.

"I hope the Government will learn a painful lesson from this - that you shouldn't play politics with people's lives and you shouldn't play politics with the NHS, on which all people depend."

MPs were urged not to use the review as "political ammunition".

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) called for MPs from both sides of the Commons to "work together" to act on the report's recommendations.

An RCM spokesman said: "The Government should be acting on its recommendations so that all patients no matter what they are going into hospital for can expect and receive the best possible care and outcomes.

"Like the Francis Report this is a reminder of why we all need to work hard to make the NHS as good as it can be, because failing to do this can have terrible consequences.

"The RCM urges politicians not to use this report as political ammunition, but as a wake-up-call to work together for the benefit of the patients the NHS is there to care for."

Rachael Maskell, head of health at union Unite, added: "Since Jeremy Hunt took up his job 10 months ago, he has been like a handwringing spectator blaming everyone else for the problems faced by the increasingly privatised NHS, except himself.

"He needs to roll up his sleeves and take responsibility for what is happening under his very eyes.

"Compassion for the families whose loved ones needlessly died should be at the forefront of ministerial concern."

NHS Confederation chief operating officer Matt Tee added: "Less than six months after publication of the Francis Report, we are experiencing another hugely challenging day for the NHS.

"Now more than ever, the NHS needs politicians to resist the temptation to descend into point scoring.

"It is crucial that we seize the opportunity offered by the Keogh Review to get under the skin of the NHS and shine light on its shortcomings but also recognises its successes."