Nowhere to hide for NHS risk register

The decision was praised by opponents of the controversial bill
The decision was praised by opponents of the controversial bill

By Oliver Hotham and Alex Stevenson

The government is refusing to immediately publish the transition risk register after its appeal against a freedom of information ruling failed.

It had sought to avoid having to make public the risk assessment report on its controversial NHS reforms public.

Today's unsuccessful appeal against a freedom of information ruling means it is now obliged to publish confidential documents detailing the risks, and potential casualties, that would be incurred by implementing the controversial health and social care bill.

But the Department of Health said this afternoon it would not immediately release the risk register.

"We are still awaiting the detailed reasoning behind this decision," a spokesperson said.

"Once we have been able to examine the judgment we will work with colleagues across government and decide next steps."

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham warned it would be an "outrageous insult to parliament" if the government succeeded in keeping the register secret while the health and social care bill completes its passage through parliament over the next ten days.

"The prime minister must accept today's ruling with good grace and order the immediate release of the risk register," he demanded.

"Parliament and the public have a right to know what risks the government is running with the NHS by reorganising it at this time of unprecedented financial pressure."

The FOI appeal was brought by Mr Burnham's predecessor John Healey, who said the decision gave "strong legal support to a full and open debate about the NHS reorganisation".

"Ministers must now respect the law," he said, calling on them to "release the risk register in full and let people make up their own minds on the NHS changes."

The controversial bill, which proposes certain NHS services be provided by the private sector, has been mired in controversy since its inception, and had been extensively amended during its long passage through parliament.

The debate in parliament on whether the risk register should be published was described by the deputy speaker as the "worst tempered" he had ever seen. The government came under strong criticism for Liberal Democrats as well as Labour.


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