Councillors slam Camden health chiefs for ‘culture of secrecy’

Chair of Health Scrutiny Committee Cllr John Bryant criticised a 'culture of secrecy' in the NHS

Chair of Health Scrutiny Committee Cllr John Bryant criticised a 'culture of secrecy' in the NHS - Credit: Archant

Councillors have slammed Camden NHS health chiefs for having a “culture of secrecy” after the council’s health scrutiny panel was left in the dark over an investigation launched into the death of a baby.

Chair of the health scrutiny committee Cllr John Bryant said he was “still angry” after only being informed about the serious incident by a Ham&High reporter following a whistleblower leak over two weeks ago.

The as-yet unnamed infant died on September 24, just nine hours after a Harmoni GP visited the family home in Camden following an urgent call.

The tragic incident occurred less than a year after seven-week-old Axel Peanberg King died in Harmoni’s care in November 2012, and four months after the Care Quality Commission (CQC) raised concerns over staff shortages in Harmoni’s service.

As a result of the concerns, the council launched an investigation into the out-of-hours GP service, which concluded last month.

Presenting the investigation’s report during the council meeting last Wednesday, Cllr Bryant said: “What I’m questioning here is a culture in the NHS, which has been there for decades, that we’d rather keep things quiet rather than go out and be publicly accountable.

“The NHS needs to learn the lessons from other public services in this matter.

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“I was caught on a train going home one evening by the Ham&High, who rang me up and asked me a question about this child’s death – which I didn’t know anything about.

“I was and continue to be angry about the fact that during our scrutiny panel investigations we took evidence from the CQC, the CCG as well as Harmoni and none of those three health partners told us that there was another serious incident which they were investigating.”

Mayor of Camden Jonathan Simpson also urged for a change of practice among health bodies in Camden.

He said: “I think it’s really remiss of the NHS when a councillor is taking on responsibility for public health for you to not start giving information over on a regular basis.”

After being grilled by yet another councillor - health scrutiny panel member Simon Marcus - on why they were not informed of the investigation, Camden CCG chief officer David Cryer said: “I don’t know the answer to that and I’m not sure why the information wasn’t given.

“We are trying to address the question raised over the culture of NHS secrecy, which we recognise.

“We are trying to do things differently.

“This is an admission from us, perhaps, for not engaging with you as councillors to think about how we can keep you best informed, so I’m very happy to have that conversation about how we can meet your requests to have information with you in a timely manner.”

Camden CCG said they would hope to have the outcome of the investigation into the latest incident in the next two to three weeks.