Some weeks ago I posted my last letter to the Chief Officer of the local Clinical Commissioning Group as part of my ongoing correspondence about what I am calling "systemic conflicts of interest". You can read the letter here with links to previous episodes. As you can see, I wrote to Lou Patten on Janury 15. I received her reply a couple of days ago. Here it is:
26 February 2014
Thank you for your further email, received on 15th January; I write to clarify your outstanding queries.
Firstly, I’m pleased we are agreed that there is tremendous value in engaging with as many stakeholders as possible, including potential providers in the development not only of commissioning plans but also in the service redesign before procurement. Because of this wide engagement there are many stakeholders with financial interest in the outcomes of the process, so we need to adopt a transparent method of dealing with all possible conflicts of interest and to ensure we have a robust process for dealing with them should they arise. This is to us a much better option rather than refusing to engage in the first place, because to co-design without their input would not achieve the integrated services we strive to develop for patients.
We continue to build on our website information; you will see that our ‘how are we doing’ area now includes our performance reports. This is still work in progress; the build of the website was to have these areas set out and a work plan to fill them over time. Whilst this may seem frustrating to the visitor, it was cost effective important to build these areas in at the beginning. Please note these papers can be obtained through our Governing Body Papers section, as we now hold all our monthly meetings in public (this is not mandatory but we are trying to be as open as possible).
I think I have now lost the will to reply as clearly Ms Patten is not going to address my questions about:
- The majority of the members of the CCG's Executive Team having a personal financial interest in the outcomes of commissioning processes
- That there is a non-level playing field by dint of these financial interests
- As we approach the anniversary of the CCG being established, the continuing absence of any accessible information about the interests of key members of the management team on the CCG website (happy to be corrected when such information is made available)
- The lack of any public consultation of these matters
I can imagine that in the intervening weeks since I last wrote, Ms Patten has been diligently checking the law to see if anything being done by the CCG and its staff is illegal. I fully expect that everything is legit within the terms of the legislation that the coalition government has put through.
But I ask you: are these arrangements acceptable to you? Do you think this is good public governance in action? Is this an ethical way to administer considerable sums of taxpayers' money? Are the citizens of Aylesbury Vale being well served here?
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