Published: 10/01/2001, Volume 112, No. 5787 Page 9

The Department of Health has refused to hand over a confidential inquiry requested by the Commission for Health Improvement as part of one of its investigations, despite calls from those involved in the inquiry to do so.

CHI is investigating the breast screening service run by Hammersmith Hospitals trust, and had requested a copy of a DoH report compiled by Professor Ian Cameron two years ago into the imaging directorate which includes the screening service.

Professor Cameron, who retired as vice-chancellor of the University of Wales College of Medicine last year, sits on the investigations and fast-track review programme board for CHI, although he is not involved in the current investigation.

His report had covered concerns about patient safety and staffing problems in the directorate.

However, although former members of staff who gave evidence to the inquiry called for the DoH to release the report, it has decided not to.

CHI has powers to require trusts to hand over documents, but its remit does not cover external organisations such as the DoH or the royal colleges.

A DoH spokesperson said:

'While conducting his research, Professor Cameron gave firm assurances to all individuals involved in the investigation that any information they provided would be treated in the strictest confidence and not made public.

The DoH is respecting this request for confidentiality.'

Professor Cameron has instead been interviewed by the investigation team.

In the meantime, the breast screening service, which had been suspended for several months, has now been partially restarted and a full service should be resumed later in the year.