Thursday, March 27, 2008

ICO criticises health body of FOI failures

Press release
27 March 08
The Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, has strongly criticised Hounslow Primary Care Trust (PCT) for failing to meet its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI). The PCT failed to respond adequately to FOI requests, refused to provide all the relevant documents to the requester, missed several key deadlines for responding to both the requester and the Information Commissioner, and has committed numerous breaches of the Act.

Richard Thomas said: ‘Hounslow PCT’s records management is clearly inadequate and its performance in handling this case has been totally unacceptable. The Freedom of Information Act must be properly implemented by public bodies - it is not a voluntary scheme that organisations can dip in and out of - I consider that other health trusts and public authorities could usefully learn lessons from this case.’

During this case the Information Commissioner needed to see the requested materials held by the PCT to make a proper judgement about whether they should be disclosed. The PCT failed on numerous occasions to respond to requests from the ICO to see the relevant information. An Information Notice was served ordering the organisation to supply the required material to the ICO. The PCT failed to respond and Richard Thomas then served draft High Court papers on the PCT – the first time this has happened under FOI - certifying that it was in contempt of court for failing to respond to the Information Notice. The PCT did then provide the information to the ICO.

The Information Commissioner is particularly concerned that, despite assurances that the PCT did not hold some of the specific material requested, it subsequently located relevant documents. This piecemeal approach to disclosure has led the Commissioner to recommend that the PCT reviews its records management system and takes advice from the Records Management Advisory Service at the National Archives.
Full press release

See also:

PCT threatened with court over fight for information - Health Service Journal

Watchdog hits out at NHS trust - Financial Times

No comments: