West Yorkshire and Harrogate health scrutiny chair takes dim view of Secret Theft Plans secrecy

Defend the NHS campaign groups from West Yorkshire and Harrogate have protested against the secrecy surrounding the Sustainability and Transformation Plan.

In a statement on behalf of many of the groups,   Jenny Shepherd told the West Yorkshire & Harrogate Joint Health Scrutiny Committee meeting on 23rd January 2017 that Rob Webster, the Sustainability and Transformation Plan leader, had refused a request to publish key background documents that he had sent to NHS England together with the Sustainability and Transformation Plan.

She asked the Committee to postpone their scrutiny, until they have been provided with the full information about the Sustainability and Transformation Plan that Rob Webster is withholding on the grounds that they can’t be trusted to scrutinise it and the public can’t be trusted to understand it.

After listening to the statement the Chair, Cllr Peter Gruen, said it was disgraceful that the Scrutiny Committee hadn’t had any proper information about the Sustainability and Transformation Plan office and thanked Jenny for the deputation statement which he said was new information. He asked for it to be sent it to him.

He added

“Jim Mackey from NHS Improvement has said that ‘ Local politicians should be managed’.”

He continued,

“I take a dim view of the fact that a senior officer of Leeds Council can spend 6 months in NHS England meetings and not come to Scrutiny to say what has happened or share a draft plan”.

The defend the NHS campaigners’ statement asked the Scrutiny Committee to take account of the Freedom Of Information response to their request to Rob Webster, to release additional Sustainability and Transformation Plan documents –  such as the   Sustainability and Transformation Plan appendices,  Sustainability and Transformation Plan template, full Sustainability and Transformation Plan footprint financial returns in Sept and Oct 2016 and detail of years one and two expected to be in the 2017-19 operational plans for Clinical Commissioning Groups and NHS Providers.

Without this information, it is basically impossible to find out what the Sustainability and Transformation Plan actually proposes to do, beyond a very broad, big picture.

The campaigner have appealed against refusal to release the requested information.

Claims to be all in favour of transparency but won’t release information

Campaigners asked Rob Webster for this information after he told Kirklees Health & Wellbeing Board last November that he was all in favour of transparency and would check with NHS England about releasing the documents.

The Freedom Of Information response says that the STP Programme Office have the information asked for, but they are not going to release it – even though they admit that it would be in the public interest to disclose the information.

They claim exemption under free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation.

Translating into non-bureaucratese: the letter says that if the STP team and external partners knew that what they discussed and planned was going to be made public, they would not feel free say what they think.

So what are the unspeakable things that they are thinking?

The Freedom Of Information reply says that publishing the requested information:

“would also lead to unnecessary public alarm or confusion as premature disclosure would likely to prejudice scrutiny or release sensitive issues still on the internal agenda or that are evolving.”

Jenny told the Scrutiny Committee,

“They think we are too stupid to understand that they are still working things out and would take work in progress as the finished article.

But withholding information is more prejudicial to scrutiny than providing information.

So, the STP as it stands  means next to nothing – because it’s based on hidden documents that are works in progress, and the people who have come up with these works in progress have been saying things that they wouldn’t say if they knew the public would hear them.”

You can read the campaigners’ deputation statement here..

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