Briefing on secrecy in the Health Service Safety Investigations Bill

The Campaign for Freedom has produced a briefing for second reading of the Health Service Safety Investigations Bill in the House of Lords on 29th October 2019.

We are concerned about a prohibition on the disclosure of information contained in the Bill. Under the bill, the Health Service Safety Investigations Body (HSSIB) would investigate selected NHS patient safety accidents or incidents and publish a report on each investigation. But it would be prohibited from making public any other information held in connection with its functions, except in limited circumstances. The prohibition would remove the right of access under the Freedom of Information Act and the right of individuals to see their own personal data under data protection legislation. Moreover, disclosure of protected information, other than in limited circumstances, would be an offence.

The prohibition is said to be necessary:

‘to create a ‘safe space’ within which participants can provide information for the purposes of an investigation in confidence and therefore feel able to speak openly and candidly with the HSSIB.’

If the purpose was to provide a safe space for participants it might be thought that what would be protected would be information likely to identify such a person, whether by name or position or indirectly from the content of what was said. In fact the prohibition on disclosure is not limited in this way.

It applies to any information held ‘in connection with’ the HSSIB’s function that is not already published, whether or not it relates to an identifiable individual, whether or not it relates to an identifiable investigation and whether or not it is capable of deterring participants from speaking frankly to investigators, inhibiting investigators in reaching their conclusions or causing any other adverse effect at all.

We think it is disproportionate and – given the substantial protection for sensitive information in the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act – unnecessary.

Read the full briefing.

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