CQC head would be 'no value' to police investigation

Furness General Hospital
Image caption Investigations have focused on maternal and infant deaths at Furness General Hospital in Barrow

The Care Quality Commission told police that their former chief executive, Cynthia Bower, would not "add value" to their investigation into the deaths of babies at Furness General Hospital.

The regulator said police did not need to take a witness statement from her.

Emails seen by the BBC show officers in Cumbria had asked to speak to Cynthia Bower and two others at the CQC, which regulates healthcare in England.

Police were investigating the death of baby Joshua Titcombe at the hospital.

But the CQC told police Ms Bower and a second official had no day-to-day involvement in the case.

They added that witness statements would therefore not "add any value to the investigation".

The details of the police enquiries are revealed in email correspondence over four days in January 2012.

In one message, a detective says: "I have listed the names of the people I need to speak to and the reason for obtaining a statement."

Ms Bower's name is then listed alongside the names of two other senior officials at the watchdog with the sentence: "I need to obtain a statement from you and your involvement in the CQC investigation."

The police acknowledge that the individuals may only have been copied into emails about the case and in which case a statement would not be required.

A CQC official later tells the police that Ms Bower and another official did not have "direct day to day involvement" with the case, and would only have been copied into correspondence about it as a matter of procedure.

The CQC official then says that neither Ms Bower nor another official "are able to furnish police with witness statements that would add any value to the investigation".

'Series of errors'

Cumbria police were looking into the case of nine-day-old Joshua Titcombe who died from a treatable infection after being born at the maternity ward of Furness General Hospital.

Image caption Joshua Titcombe died nine days after being born at Furness General Hospital

A coroner's report identified a series of errors by medical staff and police later widened their inquiry to include the deaths of a number of other babies at the hospital.

This week an independent report into the CQC's handling of events at the local health trust in Morecambe Bay was highly critical of the watchdog, listing a series of failures and "missed opportunities".

The report also found evidence of an alleged cover-up, in which Ms Bower was said to be present at a meeting where an instruction was given to delete an internal review critical of the CQC.

Ms Bower denies having any note or recollection of the instruction being to given to delete a report and says she would have countermanded it.

The meeting is said to have taken place in March 2012, less than two months after the exchange of emails between the CQC and Cumbria Police.

Joshua Titcombe's father James says he was "surprised" when he first learned that police didn't see any value in a witness statement from Cynthia Bower, describing the situation as "questionable".

"There's an urgent need now for police to investigate Cynthia Bower's actions," he said.

Cumbria police say they were not investigating the CQC and they obtained witness statements from those people they needed to speak to at the watchdog.

In a statement the force says: "Any decisions regarding investigating the CQC will be considered in due course when all the relevant information is available."

The CQC says it stands by its position from last year regarding witness statements to Cumbria Police.

Ms Bower could not be reached for comment regarding the decision not to give police a witness statement.

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