NMA Shares Concerns With CFOI Over Health And Care Bill

The News Media Association shares the concerns expressed by the Campaign for Freedom of Information over the ban on disclosure of information by the Health Services Safety Investigations Body.

The NMA said: “We support the CFOI’s concerns surrounding the Health and Care Bill. It could lead to the withholding of significant information as well as to the criminalisation of whistle-blowers, all at the expense of the public’s right to know.”

The Bill would establish the Health Services Safety Investigations Body which would investigate selected patient safety accidents or incidents. The HSSIB would publish a report of its findings but would be prohibited from making public information about actual or potential investigations, except in limited circumstances. The CFOI finds this both “disproportionate and unnecessary”.

There would also be no exception for disclosures to Parliament, so select committees would not be able to investigate the proficiency and efficacy of the HSSIB.

The CFOI said: “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 whistle-blower 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.

“Finally, 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.”