Nolan told of secrecy in NHS

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The Independent Online
A government committee investigating standards in public life has been given evidence criticising the secrecy surrounding appointments to and operations of health authorities and NHS hospital trusts.

The Public Health Alliance has written expressing concerns about the composition of policy-making bodies within the National Health Service; lack of accountability of boards to local people despite the Government's assertion that reforms in the NHS and community care were designed to bring this about; the secretive nature of the appointments procedure, including reliance on the "old boy network"; the emphasis on the political acceptability of the appointees; the lack of a public register on appointees' political and business interests; and the high representation of business, accountancy and legal professions on health boards.

The complaints are detailed in a letter from Geoff Rayner, chairman of the Public Health Alliance, whose members include professional associations, voluntary and community groups, local and health authorities, trade unions and employers' organisations.

In the letter he calls for the process of appointments to be open to public scrutiny and for different options to be considered for a reformed procedure such as election or competitive application. Complaining that there is "absolutely no accountability to local people" in the way services are managed nor sufficient local involvement in major policy issues, the letter says the greatest area of concern is the manner in which people are chosen for the boards of NHS organisations.

"Appointments are conducted in a secretive manner and appear to have been made on the basis of personal connections rather than objective criteria."