Dr Grumble has signed the Official Secrets Act. More than once. It doesn't actually make any difference whether you sign it or not. In one government department they don't bother. In another they do. Dr Grumble is holding back here. Even that is a secret. Almost anything can be seen as an official secret. You can see the reasons for secrecy - sometimes. But quite often it seems that secrecy is being used to protect somebody. Secrecy over MPs' expense claims could be seen as an example. The taxpayer pays. Why shouldn't the taxpayer know where his money is going?
Another form of secrecy is commercial secrecy. Data submitted for medicines licensing is an example. The results of drug trials are not always in the public domain and the licensing authority cannot release them because of commercial confidentiality. Yet for many of these drugs the taxpayer foots the bulk of the bill. So why shouldn't the taxpayer have access to the data which led to the granting of a product licence? Why shouldn't patients taking medicines have access to all the data upon which the safety and efficacy of the product was judged? They have to take the medicine. They have to suffer the adverse events. They are the ones for whom efficacy matters most. Surely they have a right to see the data? And, of course, the same goes for their doctors. This could be a condition of the licence approval. It would be unlikely to cause commercial damage.
But what has really goaded Grumble into this tirade on secrecy? It wasn't the MPs' expenses. It wasn't even the drug licensing issue. It was frustration that we do not know how much the parts of the NHS that have been privatised are costing. Except that is for one ISTC. You can read about that in an article written by Allyson Pollock.
It's long article. Here's a key bullet point:
- The Scottish Regional Treatment Centre treated only 32% of annual contract referrals in the first 13 months of operation at 18% of the annual contract value. If the same patterns apply in England, up to £927m of the £1.5bn may have been paid to ISTCs for patients who did not receive treatment under the wave one ISTC contracts.
Allyson tells it as it is. She can't be much loved in some quarters. She will never be Dame Allyson. Probably she doesn't want to be a dame.
She must have difficulty getting funded - except, that is, for one-way trips to Outer Mongolia.