The Health and Care Bill has its second reading in the Commons this afternoon.
We are concerned at a bar on the disclosure of information in the bill. The bill establishes the Health Services Safety Investigations Body (HSSIB) which will investigate selected patient safety accidents or incidents. The HSSIB will publish a report on each of its investigations. But it will be prohibited from making public any other information about actual or potential investigations, except in limited circumstances . We think it is disproportionate and unnecessary.
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) provides substantial protection for the information which the government says the provision is designed to protect. Time after time, such information has been protected by decisions of the Information Commissioner and the tribunal dealing with FOI appeals. The main effect of the prohibition will be to prevent the disclosure of other information that could be disclosed without harm of any kind.
The bill would make it a criminal offence for a whistleblower to disclose HSSIB information, even if that information revealed serious failings by the HSSIB and caused no damage to any investigation or any individual’s privacy.
No exception would be made for disclosures to Parliament, so a select committee may find itself unable to investigate how well the HSSIB is discharging its functions.
Our briefing for MPs is here https://www.cfoi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Health-and-Care-Bill-Commons-second-reading-briefing.pdf.
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