Want to know the risks to the NHS? You’ll have to experience it first…
Following a campaign by Labour MP John Healey to have the risk register to the Health and Social Care Act (a risk assessment document that sets out the pitfalls of the Health and Social Care reforms) disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act, and ruling by the Information Tribunal for it to be disclosed, ministers this week used a veto to bar the release of the risk register.
Andrew Lansley has cited “exceptional” circumstances as the reason for using the veto, stating that there is a “fundamental disagreement on where the public interest lies in relation to the disclosure of the risk register”.
The public interest is simple. As potential patients, we have a clear need to know what we’re letting ourselves in for when we become unwell and need to use services under the new healthcare system. Hopefully it will not come to such an extreme, but we need to know whether the risks of the NHS reorganisation are more accurately described as potential risks to our health.
I cannot help but feel however that by failing to disclose the risk register, the Government are essentially setting themselves up for a fall. Although the risks will obviously be discussed within the highest tier of NHS management, your average GP, healthcare provider, professional or patient is not going to know the risks. If the risks were clear and obvious for everyone to see, then more could be done to try and avoid these risks. New healthcare providers tendering for service contracts are not going to know what the potential risks may be, which may have the adverse effect of putting off the best possible providers from even tendering. With knowledge of the risks, we could work together to make sure that the negative impact of the reforms are lessened.
It appears however that as usual, the Government has prioritised the avoidance of a bad news day over the future welfare of the public.