Wednesday January 11 2012: IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Lord Owen steps in on Health Bill after Commons “misled”
What’s Lansley got to hide?
Former Health Secretary Lord Owen has stepped up the fight to force Andrew Lansley to release a potentially damning “Risk Register” compiled by Department of Health officials, assessing the controversial Health and Social Care Bill, which Lansley has withheld from MPs and peers since this time last year.
Lord Owen, who tabled a motion on the Risk Register last month in the Lords, has now written personally to the Presidents of the medical Royal Colleges warning that the dangers of proceeding are far greater than those of stopping the Bill now. Ministers have been encouraging the DoH to implement aspects of the Bill even before parliament decides, to make it seem a “done deal”.
Publication of the Register was first requested under the Freedom of Information Act last February: but Mr Lansley has flouted the law and defied two instructions from the Information Commissioner to release the document. According to the Evening Standard:
“Mr Lansley’s officials had argued that releasing the Risk Register, when the Standard put in its FOI request in February with debate raging over the NHS changes, would have “jeopardised the success of the policy”.
Almost a year later the Register still has not been released. The matter goes before a tribunal on January 16, but in the meantime the Risk Register has been consciously kept under wraps for the entire duration of the Commons stages of the Bill, leaving MPs to vote time and again in ignorance of the findings. And it has also been withheld from the Lords during its debates, despite further attempts to force its release.
This secrecy confirms suspicions of opponents of the Bill that the document reveals some of the many weaknesses in Mr Lansley’s proposals for greater private sector involvement and competition in the NHS, and for the Secretary of State no longer to be accountable to Parliament for a fragmented NHS run nationally by an unelected Commissioning Board, and locally by private sector management consultants, who will be steering the “Clinical Commissioning Groups”.
The danger is that the risks identified in the register, and many proposals in the Bill itself, could escape any scrutiny in parliament, with the pitfalls of the Bill exposed and felt by patients and the public only after the Bill becomes law.
Campaigner Dr John Lister, a health policy expert at Coventry University, said:
“What has he got to hide? Mr Lansley has cynically attempted to mislead MPs – most of whom have no idea what the Bill says, but have voted on party whips – by withholding this document. He is now trying to do the same with the House of Lords.
“Lansley’s plan is not just lacking any supporting evidence: it is being pushed through with damning evidence suppressed. This is taking a massive risk with patient care.
“If our own Parliament won’t uphold the law on Freedom of Information, or demand the full facts, it speaks volumes on our flimsy democracy.”
FURTHER DETAILS: Dr John Lister 07774 264112, firstname.lastname@example.org
Campaigners fighting on to try to prevent Lansley’s Bill reaching the statute book include hospital consultant and BMA Council member Clive Peedell who is staging “Bevan’s Run” from South Wales to London His route started at Bevan’s birthplace in Cardiff yesterday (January 10), passing through David Cameron’s Witney constituency on Friday January 13, and ends in a bedpan race down Whitehall on the 15th. There will be rallies at each staging post: why not join Clive and colleagues for your nearest rally, or even for the run? http://bevansrun.blogspot.com/p/details-of-run-with-maps.html
Clive Peedell email@example.com