NHS chief quits ahead of baby death inquiry

Mike Farrar has stepped down as NHS Confederation chief executive to work as a consultant

One of the NHS’s most senior officials has announced he is to step down - ahead of an inquiry that will look at his role in the Morecambe Bay baby deaths scandal.

Mike Farrar, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, will depart at the end of the month to “apply his experience in a new venture”, according to a statement released today.

But his departure comes just weeks before the start of an independent inquiry chaired by Dr Bill Kirkup into the failings at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay. As many as 16 babies died through lack of care at Morecambe Bay, and in total there were 415 deaths in excess of the expected norm between 2010 and 2012. Mr Farrar was head of the Strategic Health Authority there from 2006 to 2011.

A draft report into one of the deaths was submitted to NHS England by the Parliament and Health Service Ombudsman last week. In June, an independent report exposed a cover-up by the Care Quality Commission over the deaths and described how the health authority under Mr Farrar had “allayed concerns” about excess mortalities and other “serious untoward incidents”. The NHS Confederation’s statement about Mr Farrar’s resignation made no mention of the situation, saying he was “looking forward” to trying to improve the health service by working as a healthcare consultant.

James Titcombe, who led a campaign to expose the truth after his nine-day-old son Joshua died in 2008, said Mr Farrar’s decision to step down should not mean “he escapes scrutiny... Families in Morecambe Bay think Mike Farrar has serious questions to answer”, he said. And added Mr Farrar’s decision was “good news” and said the timing was a “remarkable coincidence”, given the recent completion of the ombudsman’s report.

Mr Farrar said he had a “real sense of career satisfaction” from being able to “shape and see real improvements in patient care, delivered according to need and never ability to pay”.

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