Furness General Hospital
More than 30 families have taken legal action against Furness General Hospital over deaths and injuries to babies and mothers.

A hospital manager accused of ordering a "cover-up" over the deaths of babies at a hospital in Cumbria could be named, after the NHS regulator said it would review a decision to protect his identity.

The Care Quality Commission will now examine whether or not to publicly identify a manager suspected of ordering a report to be shelved, after it criticised the regulator over the deaths at Furness General Hospital.

The manager denies the allegations.

More than 30 families have taken legal action against the hospital over deaths and injuries to babies and mothers from 2008.

CQC chief executive David Behan said the body would review its legal advice to protect the individuals' identities, following public pressure to name those involved.

Consultants Grant Thornton found evidence that a decision was made in 2012 not to publish an internal review that was highly critical of the hospital.

Grant Thornton were asked to investigate after Morecambe Bay NHS Trust, which ran the hospital, was given a clean bill of health in 2010.

The order not to publish was said to have come from the unnamed senior manager and "might well have constituted a deliberate cover-up", the latest report said.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt called that "completely unacceptable", saying there should be "no anonymity, no hiding place, no opportunity to get off Scot-free for anyone at all who was responsible for this".

Christopher Graham, the information commissioner, warned that senior managers must not be allowed to "hide behind the Data Protection Act".

"What appeared to be going on yesterday was a sort of general duck-out saying 'oh, data protection, sorry can't help you'," said Graham.

"That's all too common and in this case it certainly looked as if data protection really wasn't the issue. So far as the Data Protection Act is concerned, we all have a right to the protection of our personal privacy.

"But if you are a senior official then there are issues about the point at which your privacy is set aside because of over-riding public interest. That's really the issue at stake here."

Responding to the commissioner's remarks,Behan said he would review the decision not to reveal the names after the initial legal advice appeared misguided.

Behan said: "We've decided today that we will review that legal advice and we've commissioned a review of that legal advice to see if we can put this information into the public domain."

Behan said he was initially advised that including managers' names in the report would be a "breach of their rights".

"I was acting on the legal advice I was given. I acted in good faith," he said.

In a statement to the House of Commons on Wednesday, Hunt said the CQC had appointed a chief inspector of hospitals and would toughen up its inspections.

He added: "What happened at Morecambe Bay is, above, all a terrible personal tragedy for all the families involved. I want to apologise on behalf of the Government and the NHS for all the appalling suffering they have endured."

The CQC has said it is "desperately sorry this has happened" and that publication "draws a line in the sand for us".

A public inquiry four months ago into failings at Stafford hospital found the NHS had put "corporate self-interest" ahead of patient care.