- Department of Health ministers have been accused of suppressing
damaging reports in what is likely to ignite a fresh row about "spin".
The claims centre on a report on failures to properly decontaminate NHS
hospitals to ensure against the spread of CJD - the human form of mad cow
The full report was put on the department's website last week. It found
uncontrolled use of chemicals and inappropriate use of processes. "These
put patients and staff at risk and the organisation in potential breach
of the law," said the report.
It also found few hospitals had an effective management control system
in place. In some cases, the equipment was not adequate to carry out decontamination;
records were not kept; and items designated for single use were sometimes
The early findings were ordered to be suppressed in an internal letter
by the chief executive of NHS estates to Dr David Hurrell, a specialist
in the field, which was published in a written Commons answer by public
health minister, Yvette Cooper.
It said: "In the light of the somewhat negative outcome recorded by
the visiting assessors at the majority of clinical centres, there is a
need to ensure at the express request of ministers, that the final version
and earlier draft reports remain strictly confidential."
The letter said progress on improving the sterilisation of possibly infected
instruments would be "compromised if the findings of the report were
to enter the public domain in an inappropriate or unauthorised form".
Dr Hurrell, who acted as technical coordinator for the project, was ordered
to destroy all copies of the draft, including those copies held on computer.
Dr Evan Harris, the Liberal Democrats' health spokesman said: "It's
bad enough, the Government spinning of information that should be publicly
available, but the suppression of information involving public health is
"They admit they have suppressed the reports of their own working
groups. What faith can we have in their work if the Government is keeping
it secret from their own people?"