Over the last decade, there has been an incredible erosion of transparency in the NHS. As hospitals became foundation trusts, they (for a while), had the right to hold their board meetings in private.
Ambulance trusts have become regional, rather than county, wide and therefore the level of information presented at board meetings is more sparse. Strategic Health Authorities, which the Government finally scrapped in April, seemed to exist solely to take the credit for things which worked and to fog over the things which didn’t. For most of the last year, one SHA covered the whole of the North – decisions about Manchester being taken in Tyneside and vice versa. For journalists, it’s great to see the back of SHAs, although a shame that they aren’t around to take their share of the blame for the horrific incidents uncovered by the Keogh Review.
There there are the Clinical Commissioning Groups, which have replaced Primary Care Trusts. Founded on the best of intentions – to give GPs control over spending – the level of transparency remains to be seen.
So all in all, if Jeremy Hunt is serious about transparency improving the NHS, it’s a good thing. He can start by getting the Government to knock its plan to restrict access to FOI on the head. With the constant political meddling and restructuring the NHS is subject to, the one constant is FOI from an access to information point of view.
When he’s done that, he should suggest that PR firms have no place in the NHS.