Green MSP Robin Harper today pressed Scottish Ministers to explain why they support withholding health information from the public, despite the NHS being ordered to do so by Scotland’s Information Commissioner and the Scottish Courts. A letter to Robin Harper from Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed that the Scottish Government is putting itself in the bizarre position of backing an appeal to the House of Lords by the NHS, and opposing rulings by the Scottish Courts and a Scottish Commissioner appointed by the Scottish Parliament.
Greens have been pressing a freedom of information request since 2004 for the NHS to reveal incidences of childhood leukaemia by census ward, which has seen a long and drawn out process of refusals, appeals, court cases and now another appeal to the House of Lords being taken by the NHS.
The NHS refuses to release the information because it says that patient confidentiality will be compromised, yet this issue was considered at length by the Commissioner and by the courts, and was considered ill-founded because the information could be released in a form that would not do this. Greens also understand that the UK Information Commissioner who holds overall responsibility for the Data Protection Act is to support the release of the information when the case appears before the House of Lords next April.
Robin Harper MSP said:
“It seems odd to say the least that the Minister should continue to stand against the view of the Scottish Courts and the Information Commissioner, and instead back an appeal to the House of Lords to maintain this secrecy. This is an important case to make information about local health available to local communities and would be a valuable
tool for considering health and environmental injustice and inequalities. I am disappointed that Nicola Sturgeon maintains a position that is frankly untenable.”
“She has asked me before that I meet with the NHS privately. I have asked them for a meeting to discuss the issue. But I must stress that I am doing this as well as, not instead of, seeking the information requested to be placed in the public domain.”