HC Deb 04 April 1995 vol 257 cc1040-1W
Mr. David Porter

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps she is taking to increase access to information about the national health service. [18762]

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

I shall be publishing a code of practice on openness in the national health service on Wednesday 5 April. This fulfils the Government's commitment in the White Paper on Open Government, published in 1993, to increase public access to information about the NHS. This code is the first of its kind in the NHS and, following the codes of conduct and accountability which I published last year, represents a further step towards making the NHS more responsive and accountable to the public it serves. It builds on the success of the patients charter and performance league tables in increasing and improving the information available to members of the public about the NHS.

The governing principle of this code of practice on openness is that the NHS should respond positively to requests for information. The code sets out clearly for the public what information is available and from whom. It explains how to complain about a refusal to provide information, including referral of such a complaint to the Health Service Commissioner. It also describes good practice in publishing information and in responding to requests for information which is not routinely published. One of the key aims of the code of practice on openness is to foster mutual trust and confidence between the public and the NHS.

The code of practice is to be implemented by all NHS trusts and authorities on 1 June 1995. My Department will be issuing detailed guidance to assist NHS organisations in the operation of the code.

Copies of the code will be placed in the Library.