Saturday, 19 May 2007

More lies

Patricia Hewitt, the Health Secretary, was accused last night of misleading Parliament by concealing the true scale of the problems that have crippled the online recruitment system for junior doctors.

In an emergency statement to the Commons this week, Miss Hewitt said she had jettisoned the system in response to the concerns of junior doctors and recent security breaches.

But legal documents drawn up by the Department of Health disclose that fundamental flaws with the system's software means it does not work properly and is not allocating jobs to the best candidates as expected - an issue she failed to mention in the Commons on Wednesday.

In a document submitted to the High Court on the same day as her statement, Nicholas Greenfield, the Department of Health's director of workforce, spelt out the system's failings and even described the software used to allocate posts as a "work in progress".

He said Beverley Bryant, the Department's head of information services, warned last month that any attempt to overhaul the system could prove "fatal to the programme".

The revelations will damage Miss Hewitt's already battered credibility. They will also intensify pressure on Gordon Brown to sack the Health Secretary when he moves into No 10 next month.

Last night, Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat health spokesman, called for Miss Hewitt to be summoned to the Commons to explain why she misled Parliament. "I'm amazed that on top of everything else that has happened, she failed to mentioned the highly embarrassing fact that the system could not deliver what was needed," he said.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "It is incorrect to suggest that the Health Secretary has in any way misled Parliament." He said Miss Hewitt's statement referred to the concerns of junior doctors.

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