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Posts Tagged ‘NHS’

Weekly News Round-Up: Pharmacies, drugs and Prince Charles

Pharmacy charged NHS £89 for cod liver oil it could have got for £3

Dozens of Lloyds pharmacies dispensed packs of the tablets that cost £89 instead of a £3 option, taking advantage of a loophole in NHS rules which allows chemists to bill the taxpayer for whatever a product costs.

The Telegraph has been running an investigation into NHS pricing, and discovered that the health service was paying hugely inflated prices for common products such as cod liver oil and evening primrose oil rich in vitamin E.

According to data released by the NHS Business Services Authority under the Freedom of Information Act, in February, of the 67 pharmacies listed, 50 prescribing Ennogen capsules were Lloyds Pharmacy. In March, of the 71 pharmacies listed, 54 of the contractors were Lloyds Pharmacy. Read more

Holly Watt | The Daily Telegraph | 16th August 2013

Prince Charles is one meddling heir

Republicans are fond of describing Prince Charles as one of their chief assets.

They are right to do so. Reports that members of his staff have been working full-time in Whitehall – in departments in which the Prince has an express interest – have angered ministers and again raised the question of whether the Prince has any proper understanding of his constitutional position and the limits this imposes on interference in politics. The fact that it follows on from reports of a sharp increase in the number of private meetings between the Prince and ministers can only fuel suspicions in people’s minds that the heir to the throne is an obsessive meddler.

The Prince certainly has form here. He was embarrassed – or should have been – when freedom-of-information requests a few years ago revealed the extent of his private correspondence with ministers in Gordon Brown’s cabinet on matters ranging from hospital design to the housing supply. There soon followed a storm over the Prince’s intervention with the Emir of Qatar, which resulted in the Qataris blocking Richard Rogers’s redevelopment of the Chelsea Barracks in London, a pyrrhic victory that prompted several leading architects to sign an open letter accusing the Prince of abusing his position. Read more

Editorial  | The Independent | 18th August 2013

Black people twice as likely to be charged with drugs possession – report

Study by Release and LSE argues that drug stop-and-search operations are extending racial inequality in justice system.

Black people are not just significantly more likely to be searched by police for drugs than their white peers, but face almost double the chance of being charged if any are found, according to a study of racial disparities in the way drug laws are enforced.

The report, which analysed Home Office data in conjunction with freedom of information responses from police forces in England and Wales, also uncovered what the authors call a “postcode lottery” in the apparent racial basis for drug policing. While black people were just over six times more likely to be searched for drugs nationally, this was significantly higher in some places. In one police area, Dorset, the differential was 17 times. Read more

Peter Walker | The Guardian | 21st August 2013

Charity boss lobbied Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, over NHS privatisation, documents show

Charity boss lobbied Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, over NHS privatisation, documents show

A charity boss who got members of his organisation to help pay for his birthday party at the House of Lords has been lobbying the Health Secretary for measures that would increase privatisation in the NHS, documents show.

Sir Stephen Bubb, head of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo), urged Jeremy Hunt not to water down regulations that would encourage more private companies into the NHS. The regulations, drawn up as part of the Health and Social Care Act, which came into force in April, require local health bosses to put almost all services out to tender. When the reforms ran into opposition there were reports that they might be watered down.

But Sir Stephen, together with David Worskett,  director of the private healthcare group NHS Partners Network, wrote to Mr Hunt urging him to keep them as they were.

Andrew Robertson, who was given the letter under Freedom of Information rules, for his Social Investigations blog, accused Sir Stephen of “walking hand-in-hand with private healthcare business.” Read more

Emily Dugan | The Independent |  14th August 2013

Mervyn King given £26,000-worth of parties and presents on leaving Bank of England

The Bank of England spent more than £26,000 on presents and leaving parties for former governor Mervyn King, it has been disclosed.

Lord King was presented with a £10,000 copy of a painting of himself, a £2,505 replica bust of German writer Johann von Goethe and a silver napkin ring costing £597.

The information emerged following a freedom of information request from MSN UK, the online news website, with the Bank insisting the gift of the silver napkin ring is normal for all departing senior directors. Read more

Peter Dominiczak | The Daily Telegraph | 14th August 2013

NHS commissioning groups already restricting access to care, survey reveals

NHS commissioning groups already restricting access to care, survey reveals

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

BBC accused of spying on whistleblowers

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

Clegg hit by cover-up claims over charity linked to wife which received £12million Government grant

Clegg hit by cover-up claims over charity linked to wife which received £12million Government grant

Nick Clegg was accused last night of mounting a Whitehall cover-up over claims that he helped fast-track Government funds for a charity linked to his wife.

Senior Tory MP David Davis condemned Mr Clegg’s officials for citing ‘personal reasons’ to prevent the release of emails relating to a £12 million Government grant allocated to Booktrust last year.

A freedom of information request for emails sent by officials about the deal was blocked by the Cabinet Office, which claimed that publication would ‘prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs’. Read more

Simon Walters & Glen Owen | The Daily Mail | 7th July 2013

Police fail to answer 15,000 phone calls to new non-emergency 101 number

MORE than 15,000 calls to new police non-emergency number 101 have gone unanswered since its launch four months ago.

Thousands of people hung up or were cut off before their 101 call was answered, according to figures released under freedom of information laws to the Scottish Conservatives.

Yesterday, politicians condemned the figure. Read more

Chris Clements | Scottish Daily Record | 6th July 2013

Investigation into Michael Jackson’s abuse of two boys was ‘dropped so he could meet Reagan at the White House’

A FBI investigation into claims that Michael Jackson had been abusing two young boys was dropped so he could meet the President.

The disclosure is in a 333-page document that shows allegations of abuse made against the singer dated back to 1978, when Jackson was 20, according to the Sunday People.

In the documents, released after a Freedom of Information Act request, FBI agents confirmed that they did not follow up claims that two Mexican children were being abused ‘because Jackson was to receive an honor at the White House from the President’. Read More

The Daily Mail | 7th July 2013

Taxpayers billed £73,000 to ‘coach’ the man with no shame and two colleagues ahead of grilling by MPs over NHS IT system disaster

Taxpayers billed £73,000 to ‘coach’ the man with no shame and two colleagues ahead of grilling by MPs over NHS IT system disaster

TAXPAYERS were billed more than £73,000 for consultants to help prepare beleaguered NHS chief Sir David Nicholson and two other NHS bosses for a grilling by MPs, it emerged last night.

The trio relied on the consultants’ technical reports’ to face the Commons hearing last month over the problems dogging the disastrous NHS IT system.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal the consultants, hired from February, were paid £1,714 a day for the first 29.5 days, then £1,000 a day for 23 days, at a total cost of £73,563. Read more

The Daily Mail | 3rd July 2013

Disgraced Gen David Petraeus will make $150,000 to teach three hours a week at a public university

General David Petraeus’ retreat to the Ivory Tower has proved quite rewarding.

According to a report published on Gawker today, the former C.I.A. director will earn $150,000 teaching a public policy course three hours a week at the City University of New York. Comparatively, most full time adjunct professors only make $25,000 per year.

Gawker originally reported that Petraeus would be earning $200,000 dollars for the course, which was the number they found in documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIL) request. Read more

Ashley Collman | The Daily Mail | 2nd July 2013

A&E patients being forced to wait in ambulances for up to eight hours because of lack of beds

A&E patients being forced to wait in ambulances for up to eight hours because of lack of beds

Patients are being kept in ambulances for up to eight hours because there are not enough beds in A&E, figures show.

More than 3,400 patients were made to wait in vehicles parked outside hospitals for at least two hours, a rise of two thirds compared to 2011/12. There is mounting evidence that hospital emergency departments are in crisis and struggling to cope with rising numbers coming through the doors.

Freedom of Information requests from eight of England’s ten ambulance trusts show that last year 3,424 patients were made to wait in ambulances for at least two hours, compared to 2,061 the previous year. Read more

Sophie Borland | The Daily Mail | 1st July 2013

Thousands of homes built against EA advice ‘uninsurable’

The Environment Agency figures, obtained under Freedom of Information, show that 560 homes were built in 2012/13, despite concerns about issues like drainage and flooding, up from just 143 in 2011/2012.

Overall some 3,930 homes were built in the last five years against EA advice.

The Association of British Insurers said the houses would be extremely expensive to insure and perhaps impossible to protect. Read more.

Louise Gray | The Daily Telegraph | 1st July 2013

1,000 Victims Of Knife Crime Every Month In London

Figures show up to 1,000 people a month are victims of knife crime in London. The statistics, released after a Freedom of Information request, show that around 400 people are being injured in attacks every month.

There were 1,038 victims of knife crime in London in January, of which 410 were injured and four killed. In February, there was a total of 818 victims, with 993 in March and 892 in April.

The number injured in attacks reached a peak of 420 in April, the equivalent of 14 people a day. In the first four months of the year, 11 people were murdered in knife attacks. Read more

The London Biggest Conversation Radio | 1st July 2013

National police unit monitors 9,000 ‘domestic extremists’

National police unit monitors 9,000 ‘domestic extremists’

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 | 

NHS chiefs fail to report surgeons over botched operations due to loophole

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

BBC spent £28 million in eight years for stifling criticism

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 officers disciplined for criminal behaviour in five years

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.

Steve Robson | The Daily Mail | 25th June 2013

Suffolk: More than 1,000 prosecutions are dropped in past six years

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

Julian Assange reveals GCHQ messages discussing Swedish extradition

Julian Assange reveals GCHQ messages discussing Swedish extradition

Authorities at GCHQ, the government eavesdropping agency, are facing embarrassing revelations about internal correspondence in which Wikileaksfounder Julian Assange is discussed, apparently including speculation that he is being framed by Swedish authorities seeking his extradition on rape allegations.

The records were revealed by Assange himself in a Sunday night interview with Spanish television programme Salvados in which he explained that an official request for information gave him access to instant messages that remained unclassified by GCHQ.

A message from September 2012, read out by Assange, apparently says: “They are trying to arrest him on suspicion of XYZ … It is definitely a fit-up… Their timings are too convenient right after Cablegate.” The messages appear to contain speculation and chatter between GCHQ employees, but Assange gave little further explanation about exactly who they came from. Read more

Giles Tremlett & Ben Quinn | The Guardian | 20th May 2013

Clegg officials ordered to hand over key emails following pressure over his role in obtaining funding for charity linked to his wife Miriam

Nick Clegg was last night facing fresh pressure over his role in obtaining funding for a charity linked to his wife Miriam after the Liberal Democrat leader’s officials were ordered to hand over key emails to Britain’s data watchdog. 

The demand by Christopher Graham, the Information Commissioner, means the Cabinet Office will be forced to release to him a pile of private correspondence relating to the £12 million Government grant received by Booktrust last year.

The Mail on Sunday revealed in December that the charity received the money after one of Mr Clegg’s aides lobbied for it.  This meant the grant could be given direct – rather than having to compete with other charities.  This newspaper then made a Freedom of Information request to the Government for the release of emails sent between officials relating to the deal. Read more

Glen Owen | The Daily Mail | 19th May 2013

Workfare placements must be made public, tribunal rules

The Department for Work and Pensions has lost a major court battle to keep the locations of thousands of workfare placements secret.

At the end of a freedom of information challenge that has lasted 15 months, Judge David Marks QC ruled that the DWP must publish the names of businesses and charities hosting hundreds of thousands of unemployed people who, in some cases, must undertake weeks of unpaid work as a condition of receiving benefits.

Marks, sitting with two others in the first-tier tribunal, said the DWP had offered “a paucity of compelling economic evidence” to back its claims that organisations involved would be seriously financially damaged by negative publicity campaigns should their identities become public. Read more

Shiv Malik | The Guardian | 19th May 2013

Plebgate: Mitchell supporters demand answers about Met Commissioner’s role

Friends of the former chief whip, who was forced to resign after admitting swearing at police officers in Downing Street, have established that the head of the Metropolitan Police held a meeting with journalists just prior to reports appearing in two newspapers suggesting a police investigation had found no evidence to support Mr Mitchell’s version of events.

Details of the meeting emerged after supporters of Mr Mitchell used a Freedom of Information request to ask about Sir Bernard’s meeting with reporters. Scotland Yard has confirmed that meetings with journalists took place but has not provided details about what was discussed.

Mr Mitchell stepped down last October after allegations appeared in the press that he had referred to police officers in Downing Street as ******* plebs and morons when they refused to open the main gates to allow him to cycle through. Read more

Martin Evans | The Telegraph | 19th May 2013

UK’s climate change adaptation team cut from 38 officials to just six

The number of people employed by the government to work on the UK’s response to the effects of climate change has been cut from 38 officials to just six, triggering accusations that David Cameron’s promise to be the greenest government has been abandoned. The UK is facing a multi-billion pound bill over the next few years for the costs of adapting to the effects of climate change – including flooding, much fiercer storms, droughts, heatwaves and more extreme weather.

The government’s advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, have warned that the measures needed to prepare the UK’s infrastructure will include defences for power stations, transport and communication networks, changes to how buildings are constructed, and new ways of trying to prevent flooding, such as an upgrade to the Thames Barrier.

But the number of officials charged with dealing with the issue within the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has been dramatically reduced. A freedom of information response to a question by Friends of the Earth confirmed the reduction from 38 to six posts. Read more

Fiona Harvey | The Guardian | 17th May 2013

Millions for wind power we can’t use

The money is paid out when turbines are spinning but the electricity they are generating is surplus to requirements. Freedom of Information documents reveal that since 2011 more than £26.5million has been paid out under the scheme.

The payments, branded “utterly bonkers” by Conservative MP Chris Heaton-Harris, will enrage consumers facing an effective £100 surcharge on their bills for green energy.

The National Grid makes the payments if wind power is ­surplus to requirements or cannot be fed to places that need it because of system bottlenecks. Read more

Richard Creasy | The Express | 19th May 2013

300 police officers gagged at cost of up to £250,000 each

The Government has banned gagging orders for NHS employees after it emerged that £18million has been spent on silencing 600 staff. However, a survey using Freedom of Information laws has found that the orders are also widely used across police forces, leading to concerns that whistleblowers are being silenced.

Stephen Barclay, a Conservative member of the Public Accounts Committee, said: “It is very concerning to hear that police officers with issues of concern which are in public interest appear to have been silenced through gagging clauses.

“These agreements have a clear effect beyond those who sign them because other officers with ambition will see what has happened to those who have concerns and decide to stay silent.” Read more

Steven Swinford | The Telegraph | 17th May 2013

£6m cost of Olympic Torch relay

England’s largest local councils spent more than £6 million hosting the Olympic Torch for last year’s Games, figures published on the one-year anniversary of the start of the relay show. On average, authorities paid out just over £40,000 to host the flame, funding items such as security and street furniture, as well as road-closure notices and evening celebrations.

The biggest spends were in the London boroughs of Bexley and Waltham Forest, who both forked out in excess of £279,000, while more than a dozen other authorities recorded six-figure sums to host the Torch.

Those councils who enjoyed multiple visits from the iconic flame and its formidable entourage often reported larger spends than those whose glimpse of the parade was fleeting, while larger authorities with huge populations understandably spent more than their smaller counterparts. Read more

The Belfast Telegraph | 19th May 2013

University buys a £1.4m Picasso. What’s wrong with this picture?

The first I heard of Durham University’s sensational decision to splash out millions on a Picasso painting among other new art was when I received this text from my son, who is a student there: “Durham Uni spent £1.4m on art for one of the centres. … Now we know where my £9,000 is going.” A few seconds later came another text: “Why do we need it?”

It’s the right question to ask and so far Durham’s elders have failed to put up a convincing answer, leaving many students wondering if the university is getting too big for its boots in its drive to compete with Oxbridge, even over its art collections. What’s interesting about the cynicism of my son – and he says his friends feel the same – is how the punitive cost of soaring tuition fees is turning today’s students into bolshie consumers rather than bolshie CND marchers.

How times have changed – twenty years ago no student would have given a toss about what their university was spending on art – or their wine cellars for that matter. So in that sense it’s rather heartening to hear that students are still capable of being goaded into action as the cost of the art only came out into the open after Durham’s student union put in for a Freedom of Information request; one that was originally refused. Read more

Margareta Pagano | The Independent | 19th May 2013

Police take DNA of 27 primary children a week: Nearly 54,000 under 18s were swabbed for database during 2012

Police collect a DNA sample from a child every ten minutes, it emerged last night. Officers took nearly 54,000 swabs of genetic material from under 18s last year.

On average, 27 primary school children had their DNA taken by the police every week to put on the national database. The figures were uncovered by anti-prison campaign group the Howard League for Penal Reform using the Freedom of Information Act.

Frances Crook, the league’s chief executive, said most children were ‘just up to mischief’ and it was wrong to treat them like hardened criminals. Read more

Jack Doyle | The Daily Mail | 20th May 2013

£500m bill for appeal battles over benefits

More than 1.2 million cases involving claims for disability and unemployment allowances have been taken to the special tribunals since April 2010, latest Ministry of Justice data reveals.

With each case costing an average £377 to process, according to documents released under the Freedom of Information Act, the bill has been £475million.

Rising unemployment, a large backlog and confusion over welfare reforms and controversial work capability assessments mean that the figure is forecast to hit nearly £1billion by the end of this Parliament in 2015. The numbers were compiled by researchers at ilegal, the internet  forum for law specialists. Read more

Ted Jeory | The Express | 19th May 2013

Royal Regiment of Scotland top military league of shame by failing more drug tests than any other

THE Royal Regiment of Scotland have topped a military league of shame which shows they had most positive drugs tests out of the whole British Army. There were 62 positive drugs tests on soldiers from the regiment in 2012, according to newly obtained Ministry of Defence figures.

The military personnel from the regiment – whose motto is Nemo Me Impune Lacessit or no one provokes me with impunity – tested positive for illegal substances including cocaine, cannabis and ecstasy.

The figures – which were revealed in a Freedom of Information request – show that a total of 140,563 tests were carried out on Army, RAF and Royal Navy personnel – with 575 testing positive for Class A, B and C drugs. Read more

Lynn McPherson | The Daily Record | 19th May 2013

Suffolk: Ride and run crimes are under-reported by taxi drivers

Hundreds of people have hired a taxi and made off without paying after being driven to their destination, figures have revealed. Between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2012, a total of 270 ‘ride and run’ incidents were reported in Suffolk, according to a Freedom of Information request.

And now taxi drivers are calling for a crackdown on the problem because they say the true figure will be much higher as many incidents are not reported. John Lloyd, manager of Hawk Express Cabs based in Ipswich, said the issue has become an increasing problem.

“Sometimes the driver reports it to police and they are encouraged to do so,” he added. “The police do their best. They take the passenger’s address and contact details and try to persuade them to pay with 24 hours and if not, it will be made a criminal offence. Read more

Lauren Everitt | East Anglian Daily Times | 17th May 2013

USA: IRS accused of hiding existence of Tea Party targeting documents

The Internal Revenue Service denied the existence of any documents related to its policy of targeting Tea Party organizations in response to a 2010 Freedom of Information Act request, even though such documents were later discovered by the IRS inspector general.

The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, a conservative nonprofit group, filed a FOIA request in 2010 through investigative journalist Lynn K. Walsh seeking all IRS documents related to the agencies tax-exempt division specifically mentioning the Tea Party.

IRS headquarters responded in 2011 that it “found no documents specifically responsive to your request.” However, the May 14 inspector general report found that the “first Sensitive Case Report [identifying Tea Party groups] was prepared by the Technical Unit” in April of 2010. Read more

CJ Ciaramella | The Washington Free Beacon | 17th May 2013

Queen’s speech revives ‘snooper’s charter’ legislation

Queen’s speech revives ‘snooper’s charter’ legislation

The government appears to have left open the door to the resurrection of the controversial “snooper’s charter” bill to track everyone’s email, internet and mobile text use. Whitehall sources confirmed that the possibility of legislation remains under discussion despite a declaration by Nick Clegg that the communications data legislation “isn’t going to happen while Lib Dems are in government”.

A Downing Street background briefing note on investigating crime in cyberspace published alongside the Queen’s speech says: “We are continuing to look at this issue closely and the government’s approach will be proportionate, with robust safeguards in place.”

The text of the Queen’s speech gives the go-ahead to legislation, if needed, to deal with the limited technical problem of there being many more devices including phones and tablets in use than the number of internet protocol (IP) addresses that allow the police to identify who sent an email or made a Skype call at a given time. Read more

Alan Travis | The Guardian | 8th May 2013

Minister accused of wrongly blocking publication of Prince Charles letters

The attorney general, Dominic Grieve, was accused in court on Wednesday of wrongly concealing details of Prince Charles’s lobbying campaigns. Grieve last year vetoed the disclosure of a set of “particularly frank” letters written by the prince to government ministers.

On Wednesday, the Guardian launched a lawsuit to overturn the veto after gaining permission from the lord chief justice, Lord Judge, and two senior judges. The legal action to see the royal letters is the first of its kind to be mounted.

Opening the two-day case at the high court, Dinah Rose, QC for the Guardian, said Grieve’s use of the veto was fundamentally flawed and legally unjustified. The judicial review is the latest round in an eight-year battle by the newspaper to gain access to the prince’s letters to politicians. His letters have been dubbed “black spider memos” because of the prince’s handwriting. Read more

Rob Evans | The Guardian | 9th May 2013

Bogus students: UK Border Agency deports only one in 1,000 suspected cases

Last year, universities reported 106,698 cases where they suspected a foreign student was misusing their visa but only 153 ended in the suspect being deported. Of the 106,000 reported cases, the UK Border Agency only investigated 658 individuals, it was found.

The figures, released under a Freedom of Information request, come following Home Office pressure to clamp down on bogus students entering Britain.

In December, Theresa May, the Home Secretary, announced that consular staff would interview more than 100,000 prospective students in an attempt to prevent fake applicants entering the country. Read more

Amy Willis | The Telegraph | 7th May 2013

NHS staff ‘unaware’ of whistleblower hotline, Scottish Labour claims

A free, confidential hotline for NHS whistleblowers has not been promoted well enough, it has been claimed. Labour’s health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said staff “don’t seem to be aware” of the number.

Her claim came after a Scottish Labour freedom of information request found just 16 NHS whistle blowers had come forward in the past five years. Ministers said the hotline had been well promoted and they “expected health boards to listen to staff”.

Ms Baillie said she welcomed the phone number – 0800 008 6112 – being established, but she believed the government needed to do more to make sure its policy was effective. Read more

BBC | 8th May 2013

USA: Bankers warn of unsustainable farmland prices, student-loan debt

WASHINGTON – A group of bankers that advises the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors has warned that farmland prices are inflating “a bubble” and growth in student-loan debt has “parallels to the housing crisis.”

The concerns of the Federal Advisory Council, made up of 12 bankers who meet quarterly to advise the Fed, are outlined in meeting minutes obtained by Bloomberg through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Their alarm adds to a debate on the Federal Open Market Committee about whether the benefits from their monthly purchases of $85 billion in bonds outweigh the risk of financial instability. Read more

Joshua Zumbrun & Craig Torres | Bloomberg News | 7th May 2013

Ten thousand violent crime cases dealt with by ‘community resolution’ methods

Ten thousand violent crime cases dealt with by ‘community resolution’ methods

The police are dealing with as many as one in eight violent offences, including knife crimes and domestic violence, by getting the offender to apologise to the victim rather than prosecuting them in court, according to House of Commons research.

The shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, says that Freedom of Information Act requests show a steep rise in the number of serious crimes being dealt with by community resolution methods, such as restorative justice, since a 20% cut in Whitehall grants to the police began to bite in 2010.

The House of Commons library figures show that up to 14% of recorded violent offences are being dealt with in this way by some forces instead of being prosecuted in the courts. The number of cases has risen from 13,420 in 2009 to 22,733 in 2010 and reached 33,673 last year. The 2012 figures include 10,160 offences involving serious injury being dealt with in this way. Read more

Alan Travis | The Guardian | 30th April 2013

We pay £900m to help Britons who fall sick in Europe but get just £48m back to pay for visitors’ NHS treatment

The UK pays almost  £1billion a year to cover the healthcare costs of Britons who fall ill on the continent – but receives only a fraction of that for NHS treatment of European visitors. Official figures show that last year taxpayers handed £903.4million to European governments and insurance providers to pay for the care of Britons.

But the NHS managed to collect only £48.7million from the same European countries to pay for the care of their citizens who fall ill here. It means that for every £18 the UK sends to Europe to pay for healthcare, it gets only £1 back.

The figures underline how ineffective NHS hospitals are at clawing back money they are owed compared with those in Europe, amid claims that ‘health tourism’ costs British taxpayers billions a year. Many NHS trusts do not even keep records of debt. Read more

Daniel Martin | The Daily Mail | 29th April 2013

Finance Wales defends its investment track record after criticism from Plaid Cymru

Finance Wales has responded to criticism that the amount it invests into small businesses has fallen since 2009 by saying its investments have actually  risen within the last year.

Plaid Cymru said that a Freedom of Information request by one of its AMs revealed that in its last financial  year 2012-13, investment by Finance Wales was nearly £10m less than three years before.

The party said the funding figures released by Finance Wales highlight the need for a Welsh Government-owned Bank of Wales to be established. Read more

Chris Kelsey | Wales Online | 29th April 2013

Loans of £6m are given by Bradford Council

Bradford Bulls is one of only three businesses in the city to be given a commercial loan from Bradford Council, which confirmed it has lent companies more than £6 million of taxpayers’ money over the last four years.

Responding to a request under the Freedom of Information Act, the authority confirmed it had negotiated commercial loans with a total of £6.35 million with three firms in the district between 2009 and 2013, with interest rates of between 2.5 per cent and 22.2 per cent.

It refused to reveal the amount of each individual loan, or who it had been made to, but the Telegraph & Argus last month reported how the Bulls had been granted a £200,000 commercial loan, which must be paid back with interest. Read more

Bradford Telegraph and Argus | 29th April 2013

IRAQ: In draconian move, Iraq suspends licences of 10 TV stations

Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns yesterday’s decision by Iraq’s Media and Communications Commission to suspend the licences of 10 foreign-based satellite TV channels for “inciting violence and sectarianism.”

“This draconian and disproportionate decision has seriously endangered freedom of information,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Although the media must act responsibly, they are just doing their job when they cover Iraq’s current serious divisions and tension. ”

“We urge the Media and Communications Commission to quickly rescind this decision and to allow the media to cover all developments of general interest throughout the country.” Read more

Reporters Without Borders | 29th April 2013

DENMARK: Danes say “no, thank you” to restricted freedom of information

Jesper Tynell, Oluf Jørgensen, Pernille Boye Koch and Lars Rugaard are a few of the impressive list of academics, politicians and award-winning journalists who tenaciously oppose the new freedom of information act,offentlighedsloven, presented by the government.

Their biggest and most valid arguments have been that the new law, especially sections 24 and 27, would create a political vacuum where no one, journalists or otherwise, could control whether public officials and politicians were doing their job well enough, telling the truth, withholding vital information or abusing their power.

The main theme in the new freedom of information act is the political argument based (so the government says) on the idea that officials need to be able to work with the government without being disturbed by the media. Read more

Gertrud Christensen | The Copenhagen Post | 29th April 2013

USA: Supreme Court says Virginia can block out of state use of its FOIA

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled Monday that it’s legal for a state to limit use of its Freedom of Information Act to its own residents.

The court unanimously upheld a federal appeals court decision validating Virginia’s limitation of its FOIA law to state citizens and some media outlets.

In the case before the court, Rhode Island resident Mark J. McBurney and California resident Roger W. Hurlbert were suing Virginia for blocking them from getting public documents in Virginia that in-state citizens could have easily obtained. Virginia’s FOIA law limits access to state citizens and some media outlets. Read more

The Washington Post | 29th April 2013

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