Rt Hon Andrew Lansley MP
Secretary of State for Health
Department of Health
London SW1A 2NS
Monday 14th November 2011
As you know, I have always been of the view that the Government is exposing the NHS to considerable risk by initiating a major re-organisation at this time of unprecedented financial challenge. This was the reason why, in October 2010, I wrote to you asking you to delay your Bill and why on my return to the health brief some weeks ago I repeated my offer to work with you if you listened to public and professional opinion and dropped the Bill.
It is undeniable that you have increased the risk to safe delivery of NHS services by the timing of your re-organisation. In March, David Nicholson told the Public Accounts Committee: “I’ll not sit here and tell you that the risks have not gone up. They have. The risks of delivering the totality of the productivity savings, the efficiency savings that we need over the next four years have gone up because of the big changes that are going on in the NHS as a whole.”
However, until now, it has not been possible to determine the precise nature of this increased risk, based on the Department's own assessment. This information is absolutely crucial to proper Parliamentary consideration of your Bill and is why my predecessor the Rt Hon John Healey MP pressed you to release it.
It is highly regrettable that you refused to do so during the Bill's passage through the Commons. However, I was pleased to learn on Friday that the Information Commissioner has ordered the publication of the risk register. This at least opens up the possibility that the House of Lords will be able to give this Bill more informed consideration than we were able to do in the Commons.
With that in mind, I was concerned to read in the Information Commissioner’s ruling that you felt releasing the document “would have jeopardised the success of the policy”. I find it hard to see the justification for this statement. Surely it can only enhance the quality of the decisions reached in the Lords if they have a full understanding of the risks? I am therefore writing to you today to seek your assurance you will not attempt to further suppress this important report.
Specifically, I am asking for you to make four commitments:
1. That, as a courtesy to the Lords, the risk register be released by Wednesday morning to inform the Committee Stage.
2. That the risk register be released un-redacted and in full.
3. That both the original and also any subsequently updated iterations of the risk register are published.
4. That you provide continued access to the information in the risk register as the document is updated and reviewed.
I look forward to hearing from you.
RT HON ANDY BURNHAM MP