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Burnham For Mayor

Thursday, 27 February 2014

My offer to the Government to rescue scheme

I am calling for a series of tough new safeguards in exchange for Labour's support

I am calling on Ministers to use the Care Bill – due in the Commons next month – to introduce new protections, including:

• Tougher penalties for any misuse of data
• Secretary of State sign off on any application to access data and full transparency of all organisations granted access
• New opt-out arrangements by phone or online.

I have offered urgent talks with the Secretary of State to see if a way ahead could be found. If Ministers refuse to agree, I will bring amendments to the Care Bill and force a Commons vote on them.

Labour believes the Secretary of State may have misled the Commons. During Health Questions, Hunt claimed, “we have sent a leaflet to every house in the country.”

However, a Freedom of Information response from NHS England reveals that the unaddressed leaflet was not considered ‘exceptional’ post – common for nationwide Government communications – and therefore did not reach houses that ask Royal Mail not to deliver junk post.

Many people still report never having received the leaflet.

When he was appointed, the Health Secretary declared it his personal mission to have a “data revolution” in the NHS. What he has presided over is a spectacular collapse in public confidence in the use of that data. The only revolution he’s created is the growing public revolt against his scheme. And coming after his NHS 111 shambles, his court humiliation over Lewisham, it cements a growing reputation for incompetence.

The Health Secretary has presided over a spectacular collapse in public confidence in the use of that data. Even by this Government’s standards, this is a masterclass in incompetence. First, their useless glossy leaflet didn’t even go to every home as Ministers explicitly promised. Second, when people can’t even get through to their GP practice on the phone, let alone get an appointment, they have made it almost impossible for them to opt out.

We don’t want to see this scheme wrecked by Government incompetence – it is too important for that. This is a genuine offer to put the scheme back on track. We hope that Ministers’ pride won’t stop them from doing the right thing. If they work with us to introduce a series of tough new safeguards, some of which can be introduced to the Care Bill, we will help rescue this failing plan.