Sunday, 11 November 2007

Darzi's democratic bypass

The government's sham consultation process for Darzi's NHS reform was first exposed by Dr Ray, other bloggers quickly followed his fine example to highlight this worrying issue. The Department of Health have been forced to admit that there is a rather worrying lack of transparency as regards this 'consultation' process, I quote the DoH commenting in response to a FOI request:

"In the weeks leading up to the events, people were approached on the street by Opinion Leader Research (OLR- the company that carried out the deliberative events on the Department’s behalf) and asked whether they would be willing to participate."

"OLR oversaw this process to representative specifications agreed with the Department of Health."

So the government gave this important job to a private firm, so one would therefore hope that this process was transparent given that it relates to matters of a very strong public interest:

"There are no records of the meetings held between Department and the contractor."

There we have it. The Department of Health is privatising the democratic process. They have outsourced an important public consultation to a company that prides itself on spinning and manipulating public opinion. The Department of Health strangely then has no records at all of meetings it has held between itself and Opinion Leader. This is even stranger when one considers that Opinion Leader were chosen ahead of other firms even though their tender was over ten times the cost. Opinion Leader are also involved in the government's nuclear power consultation, another open and honest process if ever there was one.

Meanwhile the DoH claims that no 'social influencers' were used by Opinion Leader at their NHS events:

"I can confirm that no social influencers have been used at any NHS Review event."

This seems to directly contradict the use of Opinion Leader staff as described by people who attended the event. I smell a bit fat porkie. It is yet more astonishing evidence that shows the lengths to which this government will go to manipulate the democratic process; it is also very scary indeed that this kind of important public work can be outsourced and then conducted in secrecy behind closed doors. New Labour is again spitting upon the grave of democracy.

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