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What have they got to hide...?

PUBLISHED: 17:15 08 April 2009 | UPDATED: 11:05 12 August 2010

A HEALTH committee that claimed that 100 clinicians agreed to plans to slash A&E have failed to prove their claims for a SECOND time.

A HEALTH committee that claimed that 100 clinicians agreed to plans to slash A&E have failed to prove their claims for a SECOND time.

A Picture of Health (APOH), who are the committee behind controversial plans to downgrade services at Queen Mary's Hospital in Sidcup, have refused to reveal a list of invitees to a workshop involving clinicians at trusts in Bromley, Bexley, Lewisham and Woolwich.

According to a press statement in September 2007, proposals to downgrade services in were given the thumbs up by 100 clinicians.

But now, APOH say they can only prove that 63 accepted the invitation yet still refuse to disclose the names.

This latest snub comes just two weeks after we revealed a year-long battle with APOH to disclose a list of attendees, which they later admitted they didn't have.

Campaigner Sharon Massey, from Bexley council, said their latest "frightening" admission showed that even less people are likely to have attended the workshop.

She added: "The more you dig, the harder it is to find anybody supporting these proposals. It is really frightening that this kind of underhand behaviour is legal. I don't understand how they can claim 100 clinicians agreed with the proposals and then the Bexley Times showed that they can't prove the 100 clinicians attended the meeting.

"They definitely think that they have something to hide which is why they won't show us any evidence.

"Well done to the Times for digging, your paper is amazing!"

In a letter to the Times, Oliver Lake of A Picture of Health apologised for the previous blunder.

He wrote: "As I believe you know, the A Picture of Health programme does not hold any information regarding the clinicians who took part in the event of 25 September 2007, beyond the details of those who gave presentations which have been provided to you.

"The reason for this, as I explained in my letter of 19 May 2008, was that no formal register was taken.

"I did believe, at the time of writing, that the note taker was making an informal record of attendees but, having reviewed the files, I now realise that this was not the case. Please accept my apologies for this."

But Mr Lake refused for a second time to disclose a list of invitees under the Freedom of Information Act despite the information being in the public interest, citing an 'absolute' exemption under section 40 of the Act and the Data Protection Act.

Mr Lake also cited that the data should be exempt from disclosure under section 30 of the act, for fear it may prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs.

He continued: "The individuals concerned would not have any expectation that their names, job titles and place of work would be disclosed under FOI. In addition, some of the individuals may not have attended the workshop at all. The A Picture of Health programme therefore takes the view that it would be 'unfair' to release these names.

"The A Picture of Health programme's view is that the disclosure of the names of individuals who attended (as we presume that some of the invitees would have) the workshop would be likely to adversely affect the ability of the health service generally to conduct these sorts of meetings in the future and to enable clinicians to give free and frank views from their experience."

He concluded: "Having considered the matter, the A Picture of Health programme has concluded that the public interest in disclosure is outweighed by the public interest in maintaining the exemption."

As reported in the Times, our investigation was submitted to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) as evidence against the proposals to change health services in the borough.

The IRP submitted its report and recommendations to the Health Secretary Alan Johnson yesterday.

Dr Peter Barrett, chair of the IRP, said: "Every review we undertake is different so it has been important for us to hear the views of people living and working locally including patients, clinicians, staff, local authority representatives, interest groups and MPs.

"As well as site visits we have reviewed a considerable amount of evidence."

The final decision will be made by the Health Secretary, once he has had time to consider the IRP's recommendations and the report is due to be published in May.

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