Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 17/6/22 – #FOIFriday

Freedom of Information can be a good way to get updates on a story, fill in missing information, or follow up a potential idea in more detail.

This week’s FOIFriday sees FOI requests used in this way to check whether a confiscation order for the proceeds of crime is actually getting paid, as well as to add more detail to already published official statistics.

Long A&E waits

This week’s updated NHS figures for England show long waits for care in A&E continue – with just 73% of those attending emergency departments waiting less than four hours from arrival to admission, discharge or transfer, and 19,053 people waiting over12 hours for a ward bed once a decision to admit had been made.

One missing piece of the waiting times is how many people are facing very long waits for admission, discharge or transfer.

A new report by The Royal College of Emergency Medicine reveals that on average 1,047 patients waited 12-hours or more from their time of arrival every day in a major Emergency Department in 2021 in England, equalling a total of 381,991 patients experiencing these 12-hour waits in 2021.

There is a total of 124 NHS Trusts in England. The College received responses from 74 NHS Trusts that were contacted. The figures above are only representative of 60% of NHS Trusts in England. The true total figure of 12-hour waits from time of arrival in major Emergency Departments in England in 2021 will be even higher.

Long Covid

This one potentially could be repeated for different public bodies to see the impact of long-term sickness absence related to Covid.

More than 10,000 NHS staff members have been absent from work for 12 weeks or more since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic as a result of illness related to long COVID, The Pharmaceutical Journal can reveal.

Data obtained through responses to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests from 178 NHS trusts in England have revealed at least 10,370 staff members were absent from work for at least 12 weeks owing to illness from COVID-19 between 30 January 2020 and 11 March 2022.

Machete attacks

Police have seen offences involving machetes rise almost sixfold in seven years, the Daily Mail reports. Figures released under Freedom of Information laws from forces in England and Wales show machete-related offences have doubled in two years alone.

The blades were used in 1,364 crimes in November and December last year, more than double the 664 in the same period in 2019, and an almost six-fold increase on the 229 in those two months in 2014. The true figure is likely to be even higher as the nation’s largest force Scotland Yard did not provide statistics.

Unfit homes

More than 1,000 complaints have been made to the housing ombudsman from tenants in Greater Manchester in the last five year, the Manchester Evening News reports. The study, from Online Mortgage Advisor, shows that 1,009 referrals were made to the ombudsman from private sector rental tenants from 2016-21.

The data also shows the most commonly complained about issues — with the most likely complaint being ‘property condition’. There were also dishonourable mentions for ‘complaints handling’, ‘tenant behaviour’ and ‘charges’.

Joining the local community

Do the people who work for your local council actually live locally ( the better to understand the communities the council serves)?

More than three-quarters of Oldham Council’s top-paid managers live do not live in the borough. Data obtained via a Freedom of Information request by the Oldham Times found just 21 per cent of the authorities’ top managers are confirmed to live in Oldham.

And the figures, broken down by pay band, show that in general as the salary goes up the proportion living in the borough goes down. 

Confiscating assets

A Lotto conman who claimed £2.5million with a fake ticket has yet to pay back a single penny of the money, the Daily Mirror can reveal.

At a proceeds of crime hearing in January, Edward Putman, a convicted rapist, was told he had three months to hand over £939,782.44 or he would get six years added to his nine-year term. Now a document released under the Freedom of Information Act confirms “to date the full confiscation order amount of £939,782.44 is outstanding”.

This is a request that could be used to follow up similar high profile cases where those convicted have been ordered to pay back their ill-gotten gains.

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