13. March 2012 11:58
The Department of Health has been told it must publish its report on the risks posed to the NHS by its reform legislation.
The DH lost its appeal against the information commissioner’s ruling that it must make public the transition risk register on the Health and Social Care Bill.
However, the Information Rights Commission tribunal upheld the DH’s right to keep secret its register of the ‘strategic risks’ posed by non-legislative NHS reform.
The original ruling in November followed a Freedom of Information Act request by former Shadow Health Secretary John Healey.
The tribunal still has to state its reasons for making the decision – and following that, the DH will have 28 days to decide whether to appeal further.
As a result, it is unlikely that the transition risk register will become public before the Health Bill is passed, since the legislation is now entering its final stage in the House of Commons.
The Government’s stance contrasts with the strong emphasis placed on ‘transparency’ in Andrew Lansley’s account of the NHS reforms. The tribunal was told by the DH that public disclosure of the risks would make it harder for those enacting the Bill to “think the unthinkable”.
“Today’s legal judgment must put an end to the Government’s efforts to keep this information secret,” said John Healey. He called on the Prime Minister to order the immediate publication of the risk register.
Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of the BMA’s council, commented: “The Government must accept this decision and should not delay publication any further. The future of the NHS is too important to be decided without knowing the full impact of this troubled legislation before it completes its parliamentary progress.”