John writes to NHS Commissioning Board Chief Executive to request release of risk register

Sir David Nicholson KCB CBE
Chief Executive
NHS Commissioning Board
Quarry House
Quarry Hill
Leeds LS2 7UE

As you will be aware, today the Secretary of State for Health has finally put an end to an 18-month process of requests from me and rulings by the Information Commissioner and the Information Tribunal to release the Department of Health’s Transition Risk Register. He has notified me of Ministers’ use of the FoI veto on this information.

I made my request in November 2010, almost four months after the detail of the main policy announcements in the White Paper and after the consultation on implementation had closed, though before the NHS health and social care bill was published.

Since then the Act has received Royal Assent and the Commissioning Board has assumed implementation responsibilities for the Government’s NHS reorganiaation.

You and your operational colleagues now have the opportunity to draw a line under the past and pull off the cloaks of secrecy previously placed around NHS risk management by Ministers. You will be well aware that risk has been at the heart of concern about the NHS reforms from the outset, and that 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.

I was therefore impressed to see on the Commissioning Board website that you currently make available minutes, documents and even video coverage of the Board’s meetings – item by item. However, at first glance I was unable to find any reference or link to the Commissioning Board’s proceedings specifically regarding risk management or risk registers being held or maintained for the programmes of change that you are charged with implementing.

As you will know, it has been common practice elsewhere in the NHS to publish operational risk registers as a matter of course.

Could you confirm to me that the NHS Commissioning Board adheres to this long-standing NHS practice and makes available its own risk registers and risk management proceedings and decisions? If so, could you let me know where I can obtain copies of such documentation?

If not, and if the NHS Commissioning Board is not minded to release voluntarily full details of any implementation risk registers being held or maintained by the Board, its sub-committees or agents, can I respectfully ask that you consider this letter to be a formal application under Freedom of Information for all such details and material and commence FoI procedures by considering this request and replying to me within the statutory 20 day deadline from receipt of this letter?

There is clearly a very strong and continuing public interest in the nature and risks of the NHS changes which the Commissioning Board is overseeing.

Yours sincerely

John Healey MP