As so often, holding our public bodies to account can be difficult, probably because our public bodies and outsourcers think we shouldn’t hold them to account. You name them, WLBC, LCC, Serco, Virgin Care, United Utilities, Network Rail, for example, all show disdain for the public who might be getting near to the truth, about transparency, and they then take the view that therefore “it would not be in the public interest to do so”.
Four years ago Rosie Cooper asked “Since the salary package of up to £140,000 for the part-time role of chair of West Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) was revealed, local residents have been asking what he actually does for this money”. Our intrepid NHS West Lancashire CCG watcher Barrier French was one of them and now he has received his “bugger off” letter and is awarded his “Vexatious Cross”.
They wrote “Thank you for your email dated 11 October 2020, confirming the nature of your request to NHS West Lancashire CCG. You have asked for an investigation to be undertaken to evidence how the CCG has been open and transparent in the decision making and reasons that brought about Mike Maguire compulsory redundancy. I understand you have also asked for a copy of the CCGs Open and Transparent Policy.
“NHS West Lancashire CCG does not hold such a policy document, as this isn’t a duty, it is a value and a principle that is aligned to the CCGs constitution, please note this document is in the public domain and can be located on our website.
“We do however, have a duty to publish an organisational constitution as indicated above that explains how we will discharge our statutory functions, that includes – “the arrangements made to secure transparency of our decision-making (including arrangements for holding governing body meetings in public except where the CCG considers that it would not be in the public interest to do so)”
“The NHS Constitution states that the NHS is accountable to the public, communities and patients that it serves – the NHS is a national service funded through national taxation, and it is the Government, which sets the framework for the NHS and which is accountable to Parliament for its operation. However, most decisions in the NHS, especially those about the treatment of individuals and the detailed organisation of services, are rightly taken by the local NHS and by patients with their clinicians. The system of responsibility and accountability for taking decisions in the NHS should be transparent and clear to the public, patients and staff. The Government will ensure that there is always a clear and up-to-date statement of NHS accountability for this purpose.
“More recently, Claire Heneghan, West Lancashire CCG Chief Nurse wrote to you and contained within her letter dated 6 October 2020, you were advised that the CCG was unable to comply with your request and exhaust all forms of communication with you. Our letter was incredibly open about the impact that your repeated and overlapping requests is having on the CCGs workforce, particularly during these incredibly difficult times. Please see the extract below that describes our guidance to you.
“Whilst we, the CCG, welcome our resident’s views and comments, we must also examine the impact on our workforce whilst considering the context and history of repeated and overlapping enquiries. There have been occasions when the nature of your emails are so frequent that we have not had the opportunity to respond to you before we receive further emails about the same topic via differing channels. Therefore, it is difficult to meet your expectations as a pattern has emerged in that you do not accept our efforts to resolve your concerns I am aware the impact of this approach has been explained to you previously by the Commissioning Support Unit, however, I understand this way of communicating with the CCG continues. As a public body we will of course continue to respond to your enquiries, but this will be on the basis that the CCG has not provided a previous response to your enquiry, it is a new enquiry, the information you are seeking is not in the public domain, the information is held by the CCG and we are able to disclose it, or a previous response requires ratification. We will write to you and confirm in any instance where we are unable to respond to your enquiry.
“However we note that you continue to approach the CCG with repeated enquiries as per your email dated 11 October 2020, and whilst you have repositioned your question on this occasion, our response would remain the same. The CCG is assured that we have disclosed all information pertaining to Mike Maguire’s compulsory redundancy via differing channels, such as your MP and Freedom of Information requests.
“In accordance with our letter to your MP, Rosie Cooper, and recently from Claire Heneghan, I am sorry to advise you that the CCG is unable to comment any further in response to this particular series of questions.
Kind regards. Sent on behalf of NHS West Lancashire CCG MLCSU Customer Care team”.
Quite a way to tell Mr French to bugger off?