“Transparency is not an absolute virtue” says Jeremy Hunt, the Tory Health Secretary with a stake in a company involved in an NHS scandal

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“I welcome the Secretary of State to his place, but is it not an absolute scandal that 709,000 letters, including blood test results, cancer screening appointments and child protection notes, failed to be delivered, were left in an unknown warehouse and, in many cases, were destroyed? Does not the National Audit Office reveal today a shambolic catalogue of failure that took place on the Secretary of State’s watch?

As of four weeks ago, 1,700 cases of potential harm to patients had been identified, with this number set to rise, and a third of GPs have yet to respond on whether unprocessed items sent to them indicate potential harm for patients. Does the Health Secretary agree that this delay is unacceptable? When will all outstanding items be reviewed and processed?

The Secretary of State talks about transparency, but he came to this House in February because we summoned him here. In February, he told us that he first knew of the situation on 24 March 2016, yet the NAO report makes it clear that the Department of Health was informed of the issues on 17 March and that NHS England set up the incident team on 23 March, before he was informed, despite his implying that he set up the incident team. Will he clear up the discrepancies in the timelines between what he told the House and what the NAO reported?

The Secretary of State is a board member of Shared Business Services, and many hon. Members, not least my right hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw), have warned him of the problems and delays with the transfer of records from SBS. Given that those warnings were on the record, why did he not insist on stronger oversight of the contract?

The cost of this debacle could be at least £6.6 million in administration fees alone, equivalent to the average annual salary of 230 nurses.

Can the Health Secretary say how those costs will be met and whether he expects them to escalate?

Finally, does the right hon. Gentleman agree with the NAO that there is a conflict of interest between his role as Secretary of State and his role as a board member? Further to that, can he explain why his predecessor as Secretary of State sold one share on 1 January from the Department to Steria, leaving the Secretary of State as a minority stake owner in the company, and never informed Parliament or reported that share in the Department’s annual report.”

#JonathanAshworth #NHSScandal #JeremyHunt #NHS #Conservatives#UKParliament #Labour #JeremyCorbyn

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