Alex Hern looks at the ongoing battle to ensure the publication of the NHS risk register
The saga surrounding the release of the assessment of the risk caused to the NHS by the government’s top-down reorganisation – the so-called NHS risk register – looks like it may be heading to conclusion, with a hearing scheduled for early March over whether the government has the right to refuse to make the document public.
Their will to fight is likely to be sapped by the discovery by the Daily Mirror of the likely conclusions.
The Mirror reported:
Documents obtained by the Mirror show NHS bosses have warned the shake-up will endanger patients, lead to staff cuts and do lasting damage to the reputation of the service…
The risk registers reveal the deep anxiety across the NHS at the potentially disastrous consequences of the Government’s reforms.
They warn many GPs are not ready to take over their new commissioning roles and that the shake-up has led to low staff morale, the loss of key NHS workers and widespread instability within the health service. As well as warning of deaths, the South Central authority fears the reforms could also lead to abuse of patients, such as that at Winterbourne View care home.
These dangers are similar to those uncovered by Left Foot Forward when we revealed the contents of the London risk register:
Talking about “planning for and implementing the Government’s White Paper reforms”, it euphemistically concludes that:
The consequences of this risk could be patients receiving sub-optimal care.
The consequences of abolishing primary care trusts:
…could be that the quality of the commissioning of health care may be poor, both in securing the best health outcomes for London’s population and in maximising value for money.
Finally, and most shockingly, the document covers the risk to children that loss of expertise could lead to, and concludes:
The consequences of this may be preventable harm to children, damage to the reputation and loss of public confidence in NHS London and the NHS in London.
The fight over the release of the document has been going on for almost eighteen months now. It started in November 2010, when John Healey MP requested a copy. In December that year, he was rejected, and his appeal took until July 2011 to conclude.
In November last year, he made a second request to the Department of Health, under the Freedom of Information act. The government again stalled, and, after the information commissioner ruled in Healey’s favour, took the appeal to a tribunal.
The government is clearly – transparently – attempting to stall release of the information until after the health bill goes through the Lords and Commons. If their opposition is forced to rely on leaks and minor excepts, which is the best we have, then they will find it harder to put together the strong argument against the reorganisation that this bill is prompting.
There are other avenues of attack over the bill, however. One which is looking increasingly successful is the government’s own e-petition website. The petition calling for the bill to be dropped has just broken 95,000 signatures, bringing it perilously close to success. Sign it, and help save the NHS.
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