NHS criticised for withholding data; HEALTH ROW Confidentiality cited.
Health bosses have been accused of lacking transparency over serious incidents in hospitals.
NHS Dumfries and Galloway has refused to release copies of Significant Adverse Events Reviews (SAERs) to a patient safety pressure group.
SAERs are deemed as events that could have caused or resulted in harm to individuals or groups of people.
The pressure group, ASAPNHS, was set up to promote a safe, transparent and accountable NHS in Scotland.
Its members wrote to 14 Scottish health boards requesting under Freedom of Information, a sample batch of 50 SAERs from 2015.
Most have yet to respond but three have complied with the request and Dumfries and Galloway NHS is the only one so far to have refused.
In a letter to the group, chief executive Jeff Ace said he was refusing to provide the information as it was "confidential and contains personal information that would identify individuals".
He did, however, reveal that the board dealt with 38 SAERs in 2015; 49 in 2016 and 52 in 2017.
Whistleblower Rab Wilson, a former psychiatric nurse from New Cumnock, uncovered the original suppression of reports in Ayrshire and Arran in 2012, which led to a government probe by Healthcare Improvement Scotland.
He helped set up ASAP-NHS and is calling for NHS Dumfries and Galloway to be forced to reveal the information.
Mr Wilson said: "Other health boards have given us copies of SAERs but Dumfries and Galloway is refusing to release what should be publicly available documents.
"Is this some kind of cover-up? It's outrageous.
"People have the right to be able to track the safety record of a health board and we demand openness and transparency from them.
"I've asked the Scottish Government and Professor Jason Leitch, Clinical Director, Healthcare Quality and Strategy, to instruct NHS D&G to comply with our request immediately and provide the reports."
Another group member, Roger Livermore added: "Jeff Ace refused our request. We have a zero tolerance policy on such nonsense - particularly when it relates to preventable deaths. We are not trying to get the public unduly worried but it is a very serious issue."
Dumfriesshire MSP Oliver Mundell said: "Patients and local people deserve to know the true state of affairs in our health service.
"Transparency is absolutely vital to maintain trust and confidence and any attempt to pull the shutters down puts the reputation of our hardworking frontline NHS staff at risk. When senior NHS managers refuse to answer questions it is little wonder people believe it is because they have something to hide."
South of Scotland MSP Colin Smyth added: "It is hugely important that the public are not kept in the dark and information is readily available to staff, patients and the community alike."
And SNP MSP Emma Harper said: "I fully support NHS boards operating in as open and transparent a way as possible and complying with the Freedom of Information legislation."
A Scottish Government spokesman said: "NHS Dumfries and Galloway is a public authority and is responsible for compliance with the requirements of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act and data protection legislation.
"We expect NHS boards to be as open and transparent as possible."
A health board spokesman said: "We're keen to be open and responsive, and able to provide information upon request.
However, this has to be balanced with our commitment to upholding the privacy of our patients.
"Ultimately, there will be some information we simply cannot make public as it would be breaking our commitment to that confidentiality, and also be in breach of legislation."
He added: "The Significant Adverse Event Reports are very detailed and contain a high level of personal patient information. To redact those reports to the point where we are confident of protecting that person's details would, in our view, render that information meaningless.
"That said, we are keen to share learning from these reports as much as possible.
"We are therefore looking at how we can create learning summaries that reduce the risk of an individual patient being identified if published in an open forum."
Campaigner Former nurse Rab Wilson
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|Publication:||Dumfries and Galloway Standard (Dumfriesshire, Scotland)|
|Date:||Jan 12, 2018|
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