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Government fears release of NHS risk register

The government has refused to publish its transitional risk register on its proposed Health Bill until it has seen a detailed explanation of the reasons behind the decision to make the document publicly available.

While the Information Tribunal upheld the government's appeal on the publication of its strategic risk register on 9 March, it ordered the release of the proposed health reforms' transitional risk register.

Speaking exclusively to NiP, Health Minister Paul Burstow hinted at the possibility of a further government appeal against the judge's decision.

“The Information Tribunal now has to now spell out in law why it came to the decision it did,” he said.

“Of course we respect the process but I feel we should be at least be given the chance to see the detail after hearing the headline.  

“Until we see the reasoning, we do not know whether we will have grounds for a second appeal, of course it is conceivable we won't and in that case we will have to react.”

Burstow said the forced publication of the government's transitional risk register could result in civil servants shying away from presenting 'worst case scenarios' to ministers in the future, leading to “poor policy and poor implementation”.

“The transitional risk register is unbalanced and is written solely for the purposes of describing what can go wrong,” he said.

“The fear is that it could simply become a tool for those who want to make mischief with the legislation rather than having a discussion about its pros and cons.”

A spokesperson for the Information Tribunal told NiP the judge understands the urgency of the case and confirmed work on compiling the detailed explanation is already underway.

They couldn't, however, give any indication as to when the document will be provided to the Department of Health.

Chief Executive & General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing Dr Peter Carter welcomed the judge's ruling and called on the government to public its risk register “as soon as possible”.

“It is vital that the Government shares with the public the potential risks within the bill and what it could mean for patient care,” he said.

Question: Do you think the Health Bill's transitional risk register should be published at this late stage?