The government has “knowingly taken major risks with the National Health Service” and “ignored warnings from civil servants” in pushing through its controversial health reforms, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has claimed.
On the day the Health and Social Care Bill completed its tortuous passage on to the statute book by obtaining Royal Assent, Mr Burnham cited a leaked version of the draft risk register, claiming the Health Secretary and his ministers “kept those risks secret from Parliament in order to get his unnecessary bill through”.
The Department of Health has resisted a ruling from the Information Commissioner that it should release the final version of the risk register in response to a freedom of information request from Labour.
Speaking during Commons health questions, Mr Burnham said: “Last week in the emergency debate the Secretary of State said this: ‘Risk registers are not a prediction of the future, they set out a worst-case scenario’.”
Mr Burnham said he had an early version of the risk register from September 2010, claiming risk number seven of the reorganisation stated “financial control is lost”.
He said: “Red-rated, and according to the document likely to happen with major consequences, isn’t it clear that the Secretary of State gave an inaccurate description of the risk register … and shouldn’t he now come to the despatch box to correct the record?”
Health Minister Simon Burns responded that Andrew Lansley “did not mislead anyone”, adding: “Ministers do not comment on leaked documents.”
Mr Burnham described the contents of the draft document, saying: “The rest of the world is and we’d be interested to hear their views on it, because here we have it in full colour.
“Not worst-case scenario as he claimed, but 43 very real and very predictable risks, 21 red-rated, 14 likely to happen with major consequences, and I quote, emergencies less well-managed, more failures, GP consortia going bust or having to cut services, performance dips and key staff lost.
“Isn’t it now clear for all to see that the Secretary of State and his ministers have knowingly taken major risks with the National Health Service, ignored warnings from civil servants and kept those risks secret from Parliament in order to get his unnecessary bill through.”
Mr Burns defended the government’s record and plans for the NHS, saying: “Instead of coming to this despatch box and talking down the fantastic work that nurses and doctors do day in day out, why doesn’t he read the quarter (report) and the latest one which actually is full of facts of how the NHS is improving its performance and delivering better quality care for patients throughout England.”