THE Government has been told to come clean on the risks of controversial health reforms after a secrecy battle lasting nearly a year.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has been ordered by the Information Commissioner to release a document showing risks contained within the Health and Social Care Bill.
Information Commissioner Christopher Graham concluded that, by failing to disclose its strategic risk register, the Department of Health had breached freedom of information law.
Former Shadow Health Secretary John Healey, the Wentworth Labour MP who won the judgement from Mr Graham after pursuing the document, said: “The Government is forcing through the biggest reorganisation in NHS history and Andrew Lansley has spent the last year trying to keep the huge risks secret.
“The Information Commissioner now says the Health Secretary has broken the law in hiding the truth from the public. This is a landmark legal decision which confirms a million NHS staff and the public have a right to know the risks the Government is running with our NHS and what steps they’re taking to reduce the dangers.
“The year-long cover up is a disgrace, especially when doctors, nurses, patients groups and the public are all so worried about the Tories’ NHS plans.”
Mr Healey began fighting to get hold of the document as he led Labour’s charge against the reforms, which will abolish Primary Care Trusts and give more powers to GPs. The Government has already been forced to make a series of concessions amid unease over aspects of the policy.
But the Department of Health has resisted pressure to release the register, claiming it would have jeopardised the success of the policy.
In his ruling, Mr Graham demolished the defence saying: “Disclosure would significantly aid public understanding of risks related to the proposed reforms and it would also inform participation in the debate about the reforms.”
A Department of Health spokesman said: “We are currently considering the decision notice from the Information Commissioner.”
This week Andy Burnham, who took over from Mr Healey as Shadow Health Secretary last month, launched a campaign for the Government to drop the Bill.