Thursday, 21 June 2007

Are they taking the michael?

There has been a significant amount of controversy surrounding MMC and MTAS this year, to say the least. The government has already organised an independent review panel to look into the disaster of MTAS, however the 'independence' of this panel was shown to be seriously lacking. After significant pressure from opposition parties and from junior doctors, the government had its hand forced and had to order an inquiry into the issues concerning MMC and MTAS.

The real motives behind MMC have not yet been revealed to the public or to the medical profession, so it is hard to see how one can really analyse the issue if the government are not revealing their real reasons behind the scheme. Some naughty dissident has been pestering the Department of Health with Freedom of Information requests:

"1. Who made the decision that John Tooke would chair the review?
The Secretary of State for Health, Patricia Hewitt approved John Tooke’s appointment as chair of the review.

2. Who contributed to this decision? did any senior Ministers, PM, special advisers, interested parties have any input into John Tooke's appointment as chair?
Many officials contributed to this decision.

3. I would like to see the documents detailing the discussions as regards John Tooke's appointment.
The Department considers that this information is exempt from the duty to disclose pursuant to section 36 of the FOI Act.

Section 36(2)(b)(i) provides that information is exempt from disclosure if to do so would, or would be likely to inhibit the free and frank provision of advice.
Section 36 is a 'qualified' exemption and we are therefore required to consider whether the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption.
Section 36(2)(b)(i) recognises the critical role in effective government of free and frank discussion. Premature disclosure of information protected under section 36 could inhibit officials’ willingness to offer advice in the future and prejudice the quality of any advice given. There is a recognised public interest in protecting the ability of senior officials to offer candid advice to ministers, and in protecting the processes by which senior public appointments are made.
For these reasons, the Department believes that the public interest strongly favours the application of the exemption at section 36 of the FOI Act."

The Department of Health also ignored the question which asked whether Sir John Tooke had been made aware of the information, that was being withheld by the DOH under the FOI act, concerning discussions regarding the motives behind MMC. Another FOI request concerning MTAS is being delayed, delayed and delayed; probably until after August when the storm had died down I would imagine.

It is rather revealing that the Department of Health will not release information that would shed light on the discussions that led to John Tooke's appointment by Patricia Hewitt. It makes one wonder whether they have something to hide?

After all, it would not be the first time and the Department of Health is still stonewalling attempts that would force them to reveal the real reasons for pushing MMC through so quickly. I will probably only find out the truth when I am grey and old, but it will be worth the wait to expose these people for what they are.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I thought the Daily Telegraph were back on the subject today. Almost certainly in the Crossword 7 down should read 'Patsy'. Doesn't seem to fit though. Could anyone enlighten me?