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Risk rating of health reforms will not be published

Government to appeal Information Commissioner’s ruling that documents should be disclosed

Ingrid Torjesen

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

The government is to appeal the Information Commissioner's ruling that the Department of Health should publish its risk assessment of its controversial health reforms.

Health minister Earl Howe told the Lords that ministers were appealing the ruling by the Information Commissioner Christopher Graham that ministers were wrong not to disclose documents assessing the risk of the health reforms.

He said that releasing the documents could raise “needless concern” and “undermine open and frank” discussions between policy makers.

Labour’s health spokeswoman in the Lords Baroness Thornton said that the government’s decision was disappointing.

“It is perfectly clear that health ministers are playing judge and jury over what the Lords should and shouldn’t see about the likely consequences of the Government’s dangerous plans for our NHS”, she said.

“Earl Howe must be aware that this is now a matter of trust. Peers of all parties and none will not have been impressed that they will not be able to consider all the pertinent information about the Health Bill, and that begins to suggest a ministerial cover up.”

Andy Burnham, Labour's Shadow Health Secretary, pointed to NHS London's risk register of its reforms which warned of "sub-optimal" patient care and "preventable harm to children".

"People have a right to know the risks this Government is running with their care and children's safety as a result of this reckless re-organisation. It is nothing short of an affront to Parliament to defy this clear ruling from the Information Commissioner and withhold information which could have a bearing on how Peers vote.

The row has emerged as debate on the reforms in the Health and Social Care Bill resumed during its committee stage in the Lords.

A request under the Freedom of Information Act was made to the Department of Health to release two risk registers covering the development and implementation of the health reforms, but health ministers believe the information should be exempt because it was “integral to government policy-making”.

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