Patients are being denied treatment for hernias, cataracts and infertility because the new GP-led groups that control £65bn of NHS funding are imposing new restrictions on access to care, research reveals.
At least 27 of the 211 clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) across England have tightened the criteria for obtaining one or more forms of hospital treatment in 2013-14, the British Medical Journal has established.
But, in all, 68 CCGs are looking again at their guidelines on when patients should receive treatment for one or more forms of illness, according to responses from freedom of information requests received from 195 CCGs. Read more
Denis Campbell | The Guardian | 10th July 2013
The corporation’s Investigations Service monitored emails sent and received by 30 members of staff last year, according to figures revealed under Freedom of Information legislation.
Four of these were staff suspected of having leaked information to people outside the organisation and three of what it described as taking part in “malicious communications”. Read more
Patrick Sawer | The Daily Telegraph | 10th July 2013
Police officers with the elite force that guards Britain’s nuclear power stations have been caught drunk, using drugs, misusing firearms and also accused of sexual harassment and assault.
The offences by officers with the Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC), released under the Freedom of Information Act, have raised concerns about the safety of the UK’s nuclear plants and radioactive material.
The CNC recently stepped up the number of officers guarding the Sellafield plant in Cumbria. Read more
Andy Rowell | The Independent | 26th June 2013
A national police unit that uses undercover officers to spy on political groups is currently monitoring almost 9,000 people it has deemed “domestic extremists”.
The National Domestic Extremism Unit is using surveillance techniques to monitor campaigners who are listed on the secret database, details of which have been disclosed to the Guardian after a freedom of information request.
A total of 8,931 individuals “have their own record” on a database kept by the unit, for which the Metropolitan police is the lead force. Read more
Paul Lewis, Rob Evans and Vikram Dodd | The Guardian |
Bungling surgeons are being left off NHS danger lists because of a lethal loophole which puts patients at risk and leaves cowboy doctors riding high in performance tables.
Sub-standard surgeons are supposedly monitored on a database which registers operations that go wrong.
But under narrow guidelines, botched cases are only recorded if patients die, get infected or have to return to the hospital. Read more
Andrew Gregory | The Daily Mirror | 26th June 2013
It’s paradoxical that figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the BBC, an organisation dedicated to disseminating ideas and promoting freedom of speech, has spent £28 million in the last eight years ensuring that people who leave will not speak out.
So-called “compromise agreements” have been signed by 539 staff, of whom 14 received more than £300,000 for their silence.
Tony Hall, the new director-general, has ordered pay-offs to be capped at £150,000 from September, but he hasn’t said whether confidentiality clauses will continue. Read more
The Economic Times | 25th June 2013
More than 4,000 police officers were disciplined for criminal behaviour in the past five years. They include an inspector who was sacked after being arrested for shoplifting and a PC who resigned after installing a camera in a ladies toilet.
A sergeant in Lancashire was also sacked after he was discovered with three sub-machine guns and ammunition. A colleague from the same force resigned after being caught drug-trafficking. The number of officers found guilty of misconduct has shot up by 56 per cent – from 559 in 2008 to 873 in 2012. In total, 4,115 officers were disciplined over criminal behaviour, of which 643 were dismissed or forced to resign. Read more.
Figures from Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Suffolk, released under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal that between 2007 and 2012 a total of 1,032 proceedings were dropped for a range of reasons.
Reasons for cases being scrapped include other sentences, which accounted for 465 dropped prosecutions, a caution being more suitable and the effect on the victim’s physical or mental health.
Other reasons given were a long delay between the offence or charge and trial, the age of the offender and “loss or harm put right”. Read more
Lauren Everitt | The EADT24 | 25th June 2013
Senior Post Office bosses were awarded more than £2m in bonuses last year at the same time as ending a £2.2m incentive scheme for sub-postmasters which led to the latter taking industrial action for the first time.
Sub-postmasters had been receiving a 1p-a-letter payment for separating first and second class post since November. The Post Office decided to scrap the scheme after just five months, but the sub-postmasters were still expected to separate the post.
Their union, the National Federation of Sub-Postmasters (NFSP), said the move led to staff refusing to separate the mail until the payment was reinstated. Read more
Simon Neville | The Guardian | 24th June 2013
Any attempt to rein in the vast US surveillance apparatus exposed by Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing will be for naught unless government and corporations alike are subject to greater oversight.
The case of journalist and activist Barrett Brown is a case in point.
Brown made a splash in February 2011 by helping to uncover ”Team Themis”, a project by intelligence contractors retained by Bank of America to demolish the hacker society known as Anonymous and silence sympathetic journalists like Glenn Greenwald (now with the Guardian, though then with Salon). Read more
Arun Gupta | The Guardian | 24th June 2013
The Walthamstow section of the road in north-east of the city had the worst traffic fumes, the study said. Oxford Street ranked in the worst 15 for its estimated levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Diesel vehicles are responsible for up to 30 times more emissions than petrol vehicles,Clean Air in London said.
The campaign group’s study called for diesels to be banned from London’s most polluted streets by 2020. Clean Air for London said the mayor’s office released the pollution data after they had turned down three freedom of information requests and Clean Air for London used EU legislation to force the mayor’s office to release it.
Of any capital city in Europe, London has the highest levels of NO2, the group said. Read more
BBC | 24th June 2013
Labour has accused Ministers of blocking publication of an internal risk assessment on probation changes which will see around 70 per cent of rehabilitation work handed to the private sector and voluntary organisations.
The Ministry of Justice has rejected a request under the Freedom of Information Act for the risk register to be published, the Opposition said.
Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan said: “Because of the Government’s secrecy, we don’t know whether the public’s safety is being endangered. What have they got to hide?” Read more
The Yorkshire Post | 24th June 2013
MORE than 150 allegations of sexual abuse have been made against 81 BBC employees since the Jimmy Savile scandal engulfed the corporation last year. Half of the accused are current members of BBC staff or contributors, a Freedom of Information Act request revealed.
Of the cases involving those 40 employees, 10 remain outstanding and are currently being investigated by either the police or the BBC. The figures reveal a significant shift in the number of people coming forward in the wake of the Savile controversy.
A BBC spokesman said the organisation had been “appalled” by the allegations of harassment and abuse that had emerged since the Savile scandal broke and insisted that a series of reviews were under way to ensure that lessons could be learnt. Read more
Victoria Ward & Jennifer O’Mahoney | The Daily Telegraph | 30th May 2013
Eight formal complaints have been made about Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) after he spent £700 on a chauffeur-driven car. A Freedom of Information request has revealed concern over Richard Rhodes’ use of taxpayers’ money.
Details of the money he spent first appeared in a newspaper last month. Three police staff members were arrested for leaking information. The PCC’s office said it was “aware” of the complaints.
Mr Rhodes, a Conservative, has since paid back all the money and apologised. Two male police workers aged 47 and 59, have been told they will not face any criminal charges. A third, a female staff member, is on police bail until July. A man who does not work for the force remains on police bail. Read more
BBC | 29th May 2013
EDMONTON MP Andy Love has urged the government not to scrap ASBOs after plans to reform powers to tackle antisocial behaviour were announced. His call came as figures released through a Freedom of Information request by the Labour Party revealed there were 11,930 reports of antisocial behaviour in Enfield in 2012.
The reports ranged from vandalism and intimidation, to the playing of loud music and public drinking. In the Queen’s Speech earlier this month, the coalition government announced proposals to replace antisocial behaviour orders, which were brought in by the Labour government in 1998, along with criminal behaviour orders and crime prevention injunctions.
The government plans to reduce the 19 existing powers to deal with antisocial behaviour to six. And it wants to make it easier for victims to get police involved in tackling repeat offenders and giving them more of a say in what form of out-of-court sanction offenders receive as part of a new scheme called community remedy. Read more
Koos Couvée | North London Today | 29th May 2013
The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency in Swansea had previously dismissed three workers for making “inappropriate comments” about the DVLA, a colleague or customers on social media. The man was dismissed last year, a Freedom of Information (FOI) request has revealed.
A DVLA spokesman said it was “one of a list” of the worker’s “conduct issues”. He added: “DVLA staff cannot access any social networking sites on DVLA computers.
“Although instances of staff using social media inappropriately are extremely rare, any incidents of staff using social media at work on their personal phones are always investigated and could result in disciplinary action.” Read more
BBC | 22nd May 2013
Last month the Chancellor George Osborne boldly announced “This month, 9 out of 10 working households will be better off as a result of the changes we are making… And the average working household will be better off by over £300 a year.”
It came in a speech to Morrisons staff at the outset of a swathe of policy changes which began to be implemented last month, including the rollout of Universal Credit to replace a series of benefits, Personal Independence Payment (PIP) replacing Disability Living Allowance, a cap on the increase and total benefits working-age people are entitled to, and an increase in the income tax personal allowance.
At the time, Full Fact attempted to factcheck the 9 out of 10 figure to no avail. The Treasury neither published nor disclosed details of how the figure was arrived at. Now, one month on and one freedom of information request later, we’ve managed to get hold of the figures. Read more
Joseph O’Leary | Full Fact | 21st May 2013
Figures obtained by BBC Wales suggest a 23% increase across the country but Blaenau Gwent council received four times as many calls than in 2011. The RSPCA also received 2,200 equine complaints in 2012.
The Welsh government is considering new legislation on the issue and a consultation on abandoned horses finished last month. In response to a Freedom of Information request, 20 of the 22 local authorities in Wales revealed that in 2012 they dealt with 469 incidents – a 23% increase on the previous year.
Until March this year 165 incidents had already been reported. Some horse and pony re-homing charities say they have noticed an increase in abandoned animals too. Blaenau Gwent, which has several large areas of common land, saw the biggest increase in calls – from 34 in 2011 to 148 in 2012. Read more
Paul Heaney | BBC Wales | 22nd May 2013
A federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that the U.S. government had properly classified top secret more than 50 images of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden taken after his death and that the government did not need to release them.
The unanimous ruling by three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected a request for the images by a conservative nonprofit watchdog group. Judicial Watch sued for photographs and video from the May 2011 raid in which U.S. special forces killed bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, after more than a decade of searching.
The organization’s lawsuit relied on the Freedom of Information Act, a 1966 law that guarantees public access to some government documents. In an unsigned opinion, the appeals court accepted an assertion from President Barack Obama’s administration that the images are so potent that releasing them could cause riots that would put Americans abroad at risk. Read more
The Daily Mail | 22nd May 2013
USE of the main government jet by ministers – the long-range Gulfstream IV – is to be published online for the first time in an attempt to put an end to negative publicity about its cost.
The use of the jet has dropped by more than a third since the recession began, but it still features occasionally in media reports on foot of Freedom of Information requests.
The cabinet decided yesterday that the use of the jet by ministers will be published on a monthly basis by the Department of Defence on its website. The details of the usage of the jet by the previous Fianna Fail-led government will also be put online – with the department confirming that all flights from 2008 onwards would be documented. Read more
Michael Brennan | Irish Independent | 22nd May 2013
A total of 11 staff have been given six-figure allowances to move from London to the corporation’s new headquarters in Salford, Greater Manchester. The corporation confirmed that all 11 used licence-fee payers’ money to move into homes worth between £500,000 to £1million.
The allowances cover the cost of their stamp duty, estate agency fees and furnishings, and other moving costs. Staff are also given lump sums payments worth up to 10 per cent of their salary. The figures were released as part of a National Audit Office report which found that the allowances were “generous” and that controls over allowances were “inadequate”.
A total of 91 staff were given “exceptional” amounts, including 23 individuals who were given extra to “incentivise” them to move because they were considered “critical” to the corporation. Read more
Steven Swinford | The Telegraph | 14th May 2013
The shopping expert Mary Portas spent weeks filming attempts to revive high streets in three of the locations chosen to pilot the retail “revolution”, but some others who worked away from the camera have not yet received a visit from the TV star, documents obtained by the Guardian reveal.
A series of freedom of information requests show that of the first dozen”Portas pilots” – shopping centres chosen last May to receive £100,000 each of state support and advice – five got walkabouts where Portas spent a few hours touring the high street, four got no visit at all and two featured in hour-long TV reality shows as part of the Channel 4 series, Mary: Queen of the High Street.
Croydon, picked in the original wave of pilots, did not respond. When Grant Shapps, the then local government minister, wrote to Portas in February last year he said he hoped her “help and expertise will be extended … to those pilots that do not feature in your show”. Read more
Randeep Ramesh | The Guardian | 14th May 2013
HOAX calls attended by Bodmin firefighters have cost taxpayers at least £2,400 over the past three years. Figures obtained by the Cornish Guardian under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, revealed that crews have attended eight false call-outs in the town since 2010.
Six of these were caused by people maliciously setting off fire alarms, and the other two were prank phone calls. Nick Harvey, Bodmin’s station manager and fire prevention lead for Cornwall Fire & Rescue Service, said each fire crew call-out costs about £300 and can be more.
“The [FOI] figures are fairly consistent with what we would anticipate but we are always working to drive it down,” he said. ”We don’t appear to have a problem that’s greater than any other fire service. Generally, the more urban the brigade, the bigger the problem they have. It seems to be a problem with larger towns. Read more
Cornish Guardian | 15th May 2013
JERUSALEM – Benjamin Netanyahu has been embarrassed for the second time in a week after it was disclosed that his household costs have nearly doubled in four years, including spending hikes on shoes and hairdressing.
While his countrymen are being forced to accept a budget squeeze, Israel’s prime minister last year spent $918,000 on his three residences – an 80% rise on the $528,000 of 2009, the year he took office.
The figures were disclosed after a Jerusalem court forced Mr. Netanyahu’s office to release a report of his residence expenses following a request by the Movement for Freedom of Information. Read more
Robert Tait | The Telegraph | 13th May 2013
Under the proposals, being introduced this summer, anyone looking to bring a claim for unfair dismissal will have to pay a £250 fee to make the claim and a further £950 if the case reaches court. Previously it was free to make a claim. Payouts for successful claims will also be capped at one year’s salary or £74,200, whichever is lower, as part of a raft of measures aimed at making it easier for firms to dismiss underperforming staff.
The Government said last year it would make it harder for former workers to bring unfair dismissal claims against their employers, in an attempt to free the overburdened tribunal system from “spurious” claims that have little or no chance of succeeding.
But the latest figures reveal a substantial increase in the number of claims. Some 15,300 claims were made in the quarter to September 2012, compared to 10,600 in the three months to June, statistics from the Tribunals Service reveal. Employment law firm EMW, which obtained the figures under Freedom of Information law, said sacked employees have “rushed” to bring a claim before the changes take effect. Read more
Louisa Peacock | The Telegraph | 15th April 2013
A BBC investigation has revealed that some NHS trusts are not informing the GMC of medical staff who have made errors – even where some doctors have made repeated errors which endangered patient safety.
Responding to a freedom of information (FOI) request made to 163 NHS hospital trusts by BBC Radio 5 live Investigates, 13 said they had failed to inform the GMC about at least one doctor whose actions had resulted in more than one compensation payout, in the last five years. And at around half of those trusts, some doctors had moved to other NHS trusts which were not told about the previous complaints.
Several hospital trusts said they had compensated patients following repeated allegations made against a doctor, but had not referred the incidents to the GMC. Some doctors have been involved in up to six unreported incidents. Read more
Mark Gould | OnMedica | 15th April 2013
Margaret Hodge, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, says there is no ‘solid reason’ for regulator’s decision not to fully comply with request made by The Times under the Freedom of Information Act The Charity Commission has refused to release its correspondence with the charity the Cup Trust in response to a request under the Freedom of Information Act.
The commission was criticised by the Public Accounts Committee in March for not taking action against the Cup Trust, which turned over £176m in two years but gave only £55,000 to good causes and was accused of being a tax-avoidance mechanism.
The Times newspaper submitted an FOI request to the commission asking it to disclose details of its correspondence with the Cup Trust about tax avoidance. Read more
Abi Rimmer | Third Sector Online | 15th April 2013
The South Australian Government said it would make available more government-held information, some of it without the need for Freedom of Information (FoI) applications.
Premier Jay Weatherill also said the public would now have possible access to Cabinet documents between 10 and 20 years old through Freedom of Information, the policy replacing a 10-year rule.
“FoIs are not processed by Government, they’re processed by independent FoI officers according to law so we don’t get involved in that process,” he said. The Premier said the Government was striving for openness and accountability by making more information available. Read more
ABC News | 15th April 2013
When a former stem cell researcher at the Joslin Diabetes Center was found to have committed scientific misconduct last year, the report on her wrongdoing was brief and succinct. An investigation had revealed that Shane Mayack reused images from unrelated experiments in two scientific papers, according to a note government authorities published in the Federal Register in August.
The full report of the internal Harvard Medical School investigation on which the federal authorities based their finding has now been released to the Globe through a Freedom of Information Act request.
It provides deeper insight into how this particular case of misconduct was detected and gives a sense of how the highly secretive investigations of serious, potentially career-ending allegations unfurl. Read more
Tobacco group JTI has gone on the offensive over ‘plain’ tobacco packaging with a national ad campaign claiming that the government does not fully accept that it would help cut rates of smoking.
The campaign, which is running in national newspapers and magazines, features a print-out of an email obtained by JTI in which an unnamed official at the Department of Health requests an impact assessment from an Australian counterpart of that country’s move to ban branded packaging.
The email – which was obtained under Freedom of Information laws – states that the main difficulty for the pro-plain tobacco packaging lobby is that “there isn’t any hard evidence to show that it works”. The line is highlighted and JTI’s strapline simply says: “We couldn’t have put it better ourselves”. Read more
See the advert here: tobacco.cleartheair.org.hk_wp-content_uploads_2013_04_JTI-advert-08-04-2013
Josh Brooks | Packaging News | 8th April 2013
Ministers have chosen to ignore warnings that residential and commercial property should not be built too close to the UK’s nuclear plants.
Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show that the government rejected advice from the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), regarding the lessons to be learned following Japan’s Fukushima disaster.
The regulator recommended restricting development near nuclear plants, advice that was overridden last week when the government approved the expansion of Lydd airport in Kent, a couple of miles from Dungeness nuclear power station. Read more
Jamie Doward | The Observer | 14th April 2013
WikiLeaks has released a new trove of documents, more than 1.7 million U.S. State Department cables dating from 1973-1976, which they have dubbed “The Kissinger Cables,” after Henry Kissinger, who in those years served as secretary of state and assistant to the president for national security affairs.
One cable includes a transcribed conversation where Kissinger displays remarkable candor: “Before the Freedom of Information Act, I used to say at meetings, ‘The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer.’ [laughter] But since the Freedom of Information Act, I’m afraid to say things like that.”
While the illegal and the unconstitutional may be a laughing matter for Kissinger, who turns 90 next month, it is deadly serious for Pvt. Bradley Manning. After close to three years in prison, at least eight months of which in conditions described by U.N. special rapporteur on torture Juan Ernesto Mendez as “cruel, inhuman and degrading,” Manning recently addressed the court at Fort Meade. Read more
Amy Goodman | The Citizen | 13th April 2013
BELFAST – The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) has more reasons than most for sending its minister or civil servants abroad on promotion and fact-finding missions.
Indeed, it could be argued, it would be failing in its purpose if it did not engage in such outreach activities. So why then is it so reticent about releasing details of overseas travel? For 10 weeks it has ignored Freedom of Information requests from this newspaper on this issue, even though it is obliged by law to respond and should do so within 20 working days.
Perhaps DETI is taking its lead from the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister which was revealed recently to have failed to answer 40 FoI requests within the stipulated period, with 25 of the requests outstanding for more than a year. That is unacceptable and only fuels public suspicion about what goes on, whether that suspicion is justified or not. Read more
Belfast Telegraph | 15th April 2013
A few short days from now, the writ will drop on the 2013 provincial election, kicking off twenty-eight days of heated campaigning. And while there’s no shortage of issues for voters to consider, recent controversies around government secrecy and attempts to undermine Freedom of Information make it clear that information policy should be a top priority for voters.
The information rights of British Columbians are being undermined on many fronts. When it comes to access to information, a widespread and growing ‘oral culture’ at even the highest levels of government is making it tougher than ever before to obtain records and hold government to account.
And when it comes to privacy, the story isn’t much better. New data linkage and information sharing schemes like the BC Services Card and the Integrated Case Management System have been slammed by civil society organizations and Legislative officers as privacy-invasive, unreliable, and even dangerous to vulnerable communities. Read more
Vincent Gogolek | Huffpost British Columbia | 12th April 2013
Virginia is creating a new agency to support development of nuclear power – a move that has upset environmentalists and open-government advocates, because the entity won’t have to comply with the state’s Freedom of Information Act and other laws.
For the past year or so, companies that work with nuclear energy have been speaking with experts at Virginia universities with nuclear engineering programs and at industry-related nonprofit groups. The goal was to foster collaboration among nuclear-energy advocates, according to Del. T. Scott Garrett, R-Lynchburg.
In January, Garrett introduced a bill to create the Virginia Nuclear Energy Consortium Authority. Sen. Jeffrey McWaters, R-Virginia Beach, sponsored companion legislation in his chamber. Both bills were passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Bob McDonnell. Read more
Stephen Nielson | Capital News Service | 12th April 2013
Retail commentator Paul Turner Mitchell found the Treasury unable to answer Freedom of Information requests relating to bad debts suffered by HMRC for unpaid PAYE and VAT owed by insolvent retailers, with officials claiming they did not keep such statistics by industry sector.
Undeterred, he instead commissioned corporate health management specialists Company Watch to conduct independent research. Unearthed was the sheer scale of damage inflicted on the UK economy from some of the most high-profile retail collapses of 2012.
All in all, the research shows that the overall losses suffered by trade suppliers, landlords, employees and HMRC on the 20 largest retailers to file for insolvency since the beginning of 2012 totals £1 billion. Within this total lies a £134 million cost to the UK taxpayer. Read more
The Information Daily | 10th April 2013
BBC staff have lost 785 laptops, tablet computers and mobile phones in the past three years, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.
Since 2010, BBC staff have misplaced or had stolen 399 laptops worth £598,500, 347 mobiles worth up to £104,100, and 39 tablets at £58,500, according to the FoI request.
And there has been a marked increase in the number of missing gadgets in the last year, with 350 laptops, mobiles or tablet devices lost or stolen in 2012, compared to 259 in 2011. Read more
Josh Halliday | The Guardian | 10th April 2013
LANDLORDS in the East of England have paid more than £100m in business rates on empty properties in the last financial year, the Taxpayers’ Alliance has revealed.
A Freedom of Information request for figures has showed that £100,978,346 was raised in business rates levied on empty properties in the region from 2011-12.
In East Herts, £1,351,284 was collected in 2009-10, £1,341,216 in 2010-11 and £1,607,146 in 2011-12. In Broxbourne, £912,662 was levied on empty properties in 2009-10, £1,018,597 in 2010-11 and £775,408 in 2011-12. Across Great Britain, more than £1.1bn was paid in empty property rates in 2011-12. Read more
Hertfordshire Mercury Business News | 10th April 2013
The company running the detention centre on Christmas Island has warned the government several times of a high threat of violence. Channel Seven reported on Wednesday that documents they obtained under freedom of information revealed services company Serco sent security intelligence summaries to the immigration department warning the threat of violence at the island’s centre.
Serco warned that tents could be used “as a source of weapons and a target for arson”. It advised the use of tents “as alternative or emergency accommodation should be reconsidered and an alternative sought”.
Three warnings were sent to the department in the latter part of 2012. An immigration spokesman told Seven on Wednesday the tents were still being used. Read more
The Sydney Morning Herald | 10th April 2013