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Lansley Blasted By RCN And ICO Over NHS

One day following Andrew Lansley’s blasting by angry nurses at the Royal College of Nursing’s annual congress over swingeing cuts to hospital clinician numbers & widespread under staffing; the Information Commissioners Office accuses him of taking an unjustified decision in refusing to publish the NHS Transition Risk Register.

Lansley at RCN Congress2012Lansley was constantly heckled during a hostile 50-minute question and answer session at the Royal College of Nursing annual congress in Harrogate yesterday 14th May.

The risk register was compiled in 2010 ahead of the introduction of the Health and Social Care Bill, and identifies the areas of risk to the NHS which will follow after the passing of the Health and Social Care Bill in

Parliament. The bill became law last month on 27th March 2012.

What Lansley has published, is a review document which sets out some of the risks identified in the 2010 NHS Transition Risk Register; but with details of action taken to mitigate the risks.

Click to download Review of NHS Risk RegisterThis in itself suggests more to hide as no doubt the limitations of the document, point to the lack of mitigation of all of the associated risks of the HSC Bill on the NHS.

The Information Commissioner said that the government's refusal to publish the full risk assessment of the planned changes to the NHS is unjustified and departs from policy, and accused the government of changing policy on the freedom of information.

Whilst Governments can ‘veto’ decisions made by the ICO, this is the first time the veto has been used to block a policy document from being released.

The ICO believes that they should only be used in exceptional circumstances; but stated that this is not one of those occasions.

Freedom of Information legislation says the cabinet can only block requests in "exceptional cases", and are where:

  • Release of the information would damage cabinet government
  • It would damage the constitutional doctrine of collective responsibility
  • The public interest in release... is outweighed by the public interest

Labour MP John Healey, who first placed a Freedom of Information request in late 2010 to get the NHS Transition Risk Register published, reminded MPs after Lansley’s statement to parliament about the veto, that:

"This is the third time the government's case for secrecy has been heard and dismissed.”

A draft version of the register was leaked, revealing:

  • the risks of rising costs of GP care
  • poorer response to health emergencies
  • high chance that managers might lose financial control of the NHS

Andy Burnham MP Shadow Health Secretary"It's the third damning verdict on their desperate efforts to hide from the public the risks of their huge NHS upheaval.", said Andy Burnham, Labour shadow health secretary.

He accused Government ministers of a "cover-up of epic proportions" by deciding to veto an Information Tribunal order to publish the NHS risk register.

Mr Burnham said the decision was a major step backwards to secrecy and closed government and broke with a precedent set by the previous Labour government.

He argued that the reason the document had not been made public was because the government knew the public would never forgive them if they could see the scale of risk they are taking with the National Health Service.

In a House of Commons statement Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said publication was blocked because governments needed a "safe space" to develop policy.

He told the House that it could have led to "misinterpretation and misuse".

Lansley responds to nurses' questions at RCN Congress 2012The main inference from that has been taken as acknowledgement by Lansley that had the register been published the opposition from the public and MPs would have meant the bill being so badly amended as to remove all threat of privatisation and competition; or it would have been lost altogether.

Meanwhile back at the RCN conference yesterday, Lansley’s statement that nurses number had increased in the NHS since he took office was jeered by angry nurses.

This despite that according to the BBC news reports he was given a ‘comfortable reception’ at the conference. Once again license payers found the BBC News wanting when it comes to accurately reporting on the NHS.

Following numerous angry responses to his speech, and probing questions as to the reality of life in the NHS, the RCN’s Dr Carter stated that the RCN would continue to hold Lansley and the government to account  for the staffing levels and standards of care and any failures in the NHS; making life very difficult for the Tory-led Con-Dem(ned) government.

Dr Carter said, reminding the delegates of the next election:

"If you don't believe that politicians will want to listen, remember one thing.
There is only one certainty in politics – elections... there are an average 1,800 nurses and healthcare assistants in each constituency in the UK. In hundreds of parts of the country, that's enough people to change a result and kick someone out of office."

Ed Miliband MPLabour leader Ed Miliband is asking nurses to work with Labour to protect the NHS.

Speaking today (15th March) at the RCN Congress, he launched a 'whistle blowers hotline' called NHS Check which will allow people to report via a website problems faced by hospitals, clinics and family doctors arising from Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s shake-up.

Quoted in UK's biggest regional newspaper, The Express & Star, he said:

"The Government have been acting like they are the masters, not the servants, of the NHS. They are not the masters. Not this government. Not any government.

I can’t promise that we will always agree about everything. But what I will never do is what this Government did: dismiss you as just a ‘vested interest’. You were not a vested interest. You were the defenders of the health service.”

Source: Express & Star / BBC News / Independent / Guardian / Labour Party / Telegraph

See also: Labour Announces Whistleblowers Initiative To Reveal Damage To NHS

You can access the NHS Check website here

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