MPs block NHS risk register publication
23 February 2012
MPs have voted against the publication of the NHS risk register, a document the opposition said could show the real national impact of the government's health reform plans.
Information Commissioner Christopher Graham has already ordered the government to publish the document under freedom of information laws. But ministers are resisting the register's publication and have challenged the ruling, with a tribunal set to take place in March.
Labour's shadow health secretary Andy Burnham asked the government "what on earth" they were "trying to hide" in the national assessment of risks associated with implementing the controversial Health and Social Care Bill.
"The simple truth is this: they can't publish because if people knew the full facts it would demolish any residual support that this reorganisation might have," he told the Commons.
Burnham quoted warnings from local NHS risk registers that cancer services were likely to be affected with "extreme" and "major consequences". And he cited other local NHS fears that the pace and scale of reform combined with required savings could "adversely impact on safety and quality".
But he was challenged by ministers for his own actions when he was in government.
Prime Minister David Cameron said Burnham "blocked" the publication of a Department of Health risk register in 2009, when he was the Health Secretary.
And with the government challenged during the debate for not living up to its own transparency promises, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said coalition ministers were "international leaders in openness and transparency".
"In the NHS, we have opened up more information about services than was ever done under the last government, shining a light on poor performance and promoting better performance," he said. "The NHS atlas of variation has been published for the first time, exposing the variation in outcomes for patients in different parts of the country. That was covered up by Labour."