Friday, July 28, 2006

Holidaymaker wins right to information on Legionnaire’s disease

ICO press release:

The Information Commissioner has ordered the Health Protection Agency to release information relating to an investigation into a reported case of Legionnaire’s disease at a hotel in Malta.

The Commissioner’s decision follows a request to the Health Protection Agency from a holidaymaker who contracted Legionnaire’s disease during a holiday at a hotel in Buggiba, Malta in June 2004. The individual requested the results of the Maltese investigation into the Legionella outbreak at the hotel and also the results of a previous investigation that took place in the same year at the same hotel, in order to support an insurance claim for compensation.

The Health Protection Agency refused the request on the grounds that the information was provided in confidence. Following a review under the Environmental Information Regulations (EIRs) the Information Commissioner ordered the information to be made public.

Under the EIRs, information relating to emissions released into the environment must, in most cases, be made available to the public. This case is the first time that the emissions clause in the EIRs has been applied by the Commissioner in a formal decision.

In his ruling, the Commissioner stated that access to information about the presence of infections would enable individuals to protect themselves from risks to their health and wellbeing. Revealing a hotel’s history of the incidence of diseases would also allow holidaymakers to make an informed choice about where to stay during their holidays.

The United Kingdom is one of 35 countries which make up a network committed to the control and surveillance of disease within the European Community. The Environmental Information Regulations are underpinned by an EC Directive which binds most of the countries within the network, including Malta.

The Health Protection Agency has 35 days to provide the individual with the requested information

Read the decision notice in full

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