80% of Lib Dem voters want Lansley’s risk register published

Liberal Democrat voters are most keen to want the Government to publish the Department of Health Risk Register. A new YouGov poll commissioned by Progressive Polling and Unite shows that two thirds of voters (68%) believe the Government should honour the ruling of the Information Commissioner.

Liberal Democrat voters are the most keen to see this act of transparency, with 80% backing such a move. 73% of Labour supporters want to see its publication as do 62% of Conservative voters. All ages, social grades and regions support its release.

The Information Commissioner’s ruling in November for publication was followed by remarks from Andrew Lansley’s officials prior to their appeal that its release would have “jeopardised the success of the policy”. Since then, there has been scrutiny of a small number of published local NHS risk assessments that have highlighted risks of the Bill relating to “fragmentation” and “sub-optimal care” as well as risking overspending.

Two weeks ago member of the Health Select Committee, Grahame Morris MP, tabled Early Day Motion 2659 sponsored by Greg Mulholland MP and Andrew George MP calling for the publication of the Risk Register:

That this House expects the Government to respect the ruling by the Information Commissioner and to publish the risk register associated with the Health and Social Care Bill reforms in advance of Report Stage in the House of Lords in order to ensure that it informs that debate.

In total, 75 MPs have signed the motion including 13 Liberal Democrats. This is expected to increase ahead of the Opposition Day Debate due to take place on Wednesday on the Publication of the Risk Register. There a powerful case for following the Information Commissioner’s ruling and publishing this week:

1. This bill is a special case certainly worthy of additional scrutiny. The scale and scope of the changes to the NHS in Andrew Lansley’s Bill is contrary to the Coalition Agreement which pledged:
‘We will stop the top-down reorganisations of the NHS that have got in the way of patient care’. [Page 24, The Coalition, Our Programme for Government]. In what appears a cynical manoeuvre, the Department of Health’s appeal against the Information Commissioner’s ruling will delay the publication of the Risk Register until after the Bill becomes law. If the Department is confident it has taken precautionary steps to mitigate risks, then it should share them.

2. There is very little trust that the NHS is safe in Conservative hands. Today’s poll shows that 70% of Liberal Democrat supporters trust NHS health professionals more than David Cameron and Andrew Lansley on the Health and Social Care Bill. John Pugh MP Chairman of the Liberal Democrat Backbench Health Committee told the Liverpool Post last week: “If the Conservatives had gone to the country at the last election and said ‘we want a market-based health system’ they would have lost the election badly. So they promised to safeguard the NHS instead. No-one has ever asked people ‘do you want to turn the NHS into a marketplace?’” This is a Bill the public didn’t provide a mandate for, was assured wouldn’t happen in the Coalition Agreement and is opposed by people the public trust the most. Transparency is essential to prevent a collapse in trust.

3. Last year Nick Clegg argued expanding Freedom of Information laws was “part of our wider project to resettle the relationship between people and government. Free citizens must be able to hold big institutions and powerful individuals to account.” This is an agenda for progressives to unite around. Here is the ideal opportunity for the Deputy Prime Minister to demonstrate that aim is sincere and he is determined to enact it.

Publishing the NHS Risk Register does not require new legislation – it merely acknowledges the ruling of the Information Commissioner.

It would be seen as a sign of intent that the electorate (and indeed legislators) are capable of considering a risk assessment as part of a wider case for or against the Health and Social Care Bill.

Lib Dems are well placed to make powerful arguments for the release of the NHS Risk Register this week. Party supporters do not trust the Conservatives on health, they want MPs to vote for its publication and those MPs who vote for its release stand to be well supported in their constituencies. To vote to be kept in ignorance about the risk from the Bill would seem peculiar, somewhat damaging to trust in the Coalition Government and certainly not in keeping with the mood of the times.

Details of the poll can be read here.

* Neil Foster is editor of Progressive Polling which highlights and commissions polling questions often ignored by the mainstream media. He is married to a GP in Northumberland and has a strong interest in public health.

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This entry was posted in The Independent View.


  • Jayne Mansfield 20th Feb '12 - 10:11am

    There must be a reason why they afraid to publish the risk register.

    Whatever happened to ‘openness in politics’?

  • Andrew Tennant 20th Feb '12 - 10:52am

    As a participant in said survey, and while I voted for the risk register to be published, I should highlight how disgracefully biased to generate a particular result the questions were – essentially it was a cynical and obvious push poll.

  • Andrew, here’s the question

    “The Information Commissioner has ruled that the government should release this document under the Freedom of Information Act to make it accessible to MPs and the wider public. The government have appealed against this claiming that releasing it publicly would undermine the reforms and deter civil servants from speaking openly when developing policy.

    Do you think the government should or should not release the NHS reform risk register?”

    Could you explain how this is push polling? It gives the original ruling, explains, in an even-handed way, the Government’s objection (and makes it sound pretty reasonable), and then asks the reader to make a judgement.

    It looks like a pretty fair way to ask what is a very important question at the moment, and it’s a bit harsh to accuse Neil of failing to maintain his professional standards.

  • “Could you explain how this is push polling?”

    The question certainly seems balanced to me.

    But what Andrew Tennant describes isn’t a “push poll” in any case:

  • Andrew Tennant 20th Feb '12 - 1:13pm

    Chris – it’s about the sixth question that the poll asked – if you want to know how participants were steered to an answer I’d suggest you also read and quote those preceding

  • Andrew Tennant 20th Feb '12 - 1:21pm

    Peter – the ‘damage’ it will do to the NHS is to put in a more responsive structure to provide state funded, patient and GP chosen, high quality, value for money, universal healthcare, where the best provider can be chosen rather than patients be told to ‘take what you’re given’

  • “it’s about the sixth question that the poll asked – if you want to know how participants were steered to an answer I’d suggest you also read and quote those preceding”

    As you’re the one making the accusation, I think it would have been better if you’d quoted them yourself, and explained what you were objecting to.

    For the record, it was the fourth question, and the first three were:
    (1) Which of the two largest parties do you think generally has the best approach to the NHS? Labour or Conservative?
    (2) Thinking back to the assurances that David Cameron gave on the NHS before the last election, do you think he has or has not delivered upon them?
    (3) People have different opinions about the government’s proposed changes to the NHS. Thinking about the possible effects of the government’s NHS proposals whose opinion do you trust more? David Cameron and Andrew Lansley / Organisations representing doctors, nurses and other health professionals

  • @Andrew Tennant. Yeah, I have noticed the “responsive, high quality, value for money” service offered by Britain’s (pivatised) railways, having travelled on various European (state-owned) railways. You will know the difference is staggering and bodes ill (very ill) for the NHS.

  • Of course the risk register should be published. Liberal Democrats should insist that it is, in line with the Information Commissioners’ ruling and a belief in genuinely open government. The fact that Lansley is refusing to publish is utterly damning in itself. It can only mean that it contains some true horrors. That may well derail the policy. But perhaps that is the correct, democratic outcome.

    I’m fed up with the way this Government insists on playing fast and loose with Parliamentary procedures. It is a sign of both weakness and strength. They can’t win the day with the force of the argument, so just peddle misinformation to get their way (eg on criminalising squatting) and/or railroad it through anyway (eg on welfare reform). Speaking of railroading, not sure how this thread got on to privatised railways, but it seems to me that there is a danger of the discussion heading in precisely the wrong direction.

  • I can understand the fear of publishing a risk register as it is essentially a list of ALL possible things that can go wrong, no matter how remote that risk is. As such, it will no doubt look and sound like a horror story of what the NHS is to become to anyone who reads it and doesn’t understand this. This is true of risk registers no matter the subject – I work in the space industry designing missions where, were you to judge whether or not to do something solely on its risk register you would never fly anything!

    What is much more important isn’t the register but the risk analysis. What is the impact of a risk occuring and, most imortantly, what is its liklihood. The point of such an analysis isn’t to revel in the destruction one might cause but to prevent those bad things that are happening. Should the probability of care quality dropping be high then the risk register is saying that something should be done about that. The government would then be obliged to put systems in place to prevent this happening.

    As someone who believes very strongly in freedom of information and the right for voters to be informed voters, I can totally understand why publishing the risk register, particularly if it comes without any risk analysis, is something that’s worrying the government.

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