Government to veto release of NHS transition risk register

John Healey MP first asked for release of the risk register on the Government’s NHS reforms in November 2010. Today in response to the Government’s decision to override the court ruling and veto release, the Labour MP said:

“This is a desperate act which will backfire badly. It is an admission of defeat on the legal arguments for public release.

“It is totally over the top to place NHS changes on the same footing as preparations for the Iraq war. There must be some very big risks in the Government’s NHS reorganisation for Ministers to override the law with their political veto. Ministers have made the announcement in the very last hour of the last day, trying to bury this bad news on the eve of the Queen’s Speech.

“The Government has lost twice in law, yet still won’t accept that patients and NHS staff have the right to know the risks Ministers are running with the biggest-ever NHS reorganisation.

“It’s a desperate act from act from a Prime Minister who laid claim to good government, saying: ‘I think transparency can help us to re-build trust in our politics. One of the reasons people don’t trust politicians is because they think we’ve always got something to hide. Well, by the time we’ve finished, there will be far fewer hiding places…In time, I want our government to be one of the most open and transparent in the world.”

“Risk has been at the heart of concern about the longest legislation and biggest reform in NHS history. Lack of evidence and confidence about how well the Government was prepared to manage the risks was a major cause of professional, public and Parliamentary alarm at the plans. By keeping the risk register secret, Ministers have missed the chance to reassure people they’re on top of the risks.

“This decision will only fuel doubts and distrust about the Government’s NHS plans, as people rightly ask: ‘what are they hiding from us?’ They’ve lost the argument on the NHS, now Ministers will any benefit of the doubt because every time something serious goes wrong in the NHS, people will want to know: ‘Did they expect this problem? And what did they do to avoid it?’

“I made my FoI request 18 months ago but public concern about risks remains important over the next 2-3 years during the transition to the new system.

“So I have today I’ve asked the chief executive of the NHS Commissioning Board to publish their implementation risk register of the NHS reforms, and to act where Ministers have failed”.