The Solicitor - The FindLaw UK Life, Family and Workplace Law Blog

Health: Shadow minister threatens legal action over NHS cover-ups

A row between health secretary Jeremy Hunt and his shadow counterpart Andy Burnham looks set to end in the courts, after the latter threatened legal action over an ongoing row about a perceived NHS cover-up when Mr Burnham was Secretary of State for Health.

The Independent reports that Mr Burnham, currently the Shadow Secretary of State for Health, held the official Secretary of State position under the previous Labour Government shortly before their election defeat in 2010.

It was during this time that his current successor, Jeremy Hunt, claims Mr Burnham was responsible for a cover-up of a report highlighting poor standards of care at Basildon Hospital.

According to Mr Hunt, emails obtained by his department following a Freedom of Information Act request, show that Mr Burnham had attempted to prevent publication of the report into Basildon Hospital.

The inference is that the report was stifled for party political benefit, with an election looming large.

However, Mr Burnham claims that any attempt to delay the publication of the report was due to standard protocols on the publication of reports detailing hospital failures.

"The release of information about any hospital failure is a serious matter," Mr Burnham wrote in a blog.

"It needs to be handled in a considered manner and according to an agreed process... There was never any question of information being withheld," he added.

However, Mr Hunt has insinuated that the purpose of Mr Burnham's actions were part of a 'cover up'.

"We are legislating to make sure this never happens again," tweeted Mr Hunt.

The tweet has spurred Mr Burnham to threaten legal action, instructing his lawyers to write to Mr Hunt to demand he retract his tweet.

Mr Burnham admitted it would be extraordinary for a former Secretary of State to sue a successor; however, he claimed the move would be justified by the serious nature of the allegations against him.