Minister urged to end leukaemia row

THE Greens have called on the Scottish health secretary to force the NHS to release information about rates of childhood leukaemia.

Robin Harper, the party leader, asked Nicola Sturgeon to intervene after it emerged the health service is appealing a Court of Session ruling.

Last December, the court made its first ruling regarding an appeal against a decision by the Information Commissioner - and ordered the NHS to reveal statistics on childhood leukaemia in Dumfries and Galloway.

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The wrangle was sparked by a request under the Freedom of Information Act, which was turned down by the NHS in early 2005.

In August that year, the Scottish Information Commissioner ruled the statistics should be released. The Common Services Agency (CSA) of the NHS appealed on the grounds that it would risk revealing patients' identities. But the court upheld the commissioner's view that the information could be given without risking identification.

It has now emerged the agency is taking its appeal to the Lords in an attempt to overturn the decision.

Mr Harper, whose party has a co-operation deal with the SNP Executive, said the agency was wasting taxpayers' money in the dispute. He added: "I would urge ministers to intervene with their civil servants to abide by the court ruling."

The Greens want to see if there is a link between leukaemia clusters and nuclear plants at Sellafield and Chapelcross and the use of depleted uranium shells by British forces in the Solway Firth.

A CSA spokeswoman said: "In view of the fundamental principle at the heart of this matter - patient confidentiality - we have decided to proceed with this appeal."

A spokeswoman for the Executive said it was "very sympathetic" to the Greens' case.

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