Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 19/8/22 – #FOIFriday

Freedom of Information Act requests are great for follow-ups. When those in power claim their policy or funding is helping solve a particular problem, it’s a good time to check to see if it’s having the impact they claim it is – like funding for extra NHS dental appointments, that didn’t really create more appointments.

An FOI idea from me this week – while FOI is notoriously slow (it’s supposed to be a response within 20 working days, not a minimum of 20 working days!), just getting the information you can quickly can still lead to timely stories. A look at what was happening in hospitals during the July heatwave found some extremely hot room temperatures (some in the high 30s), plus people needing treatment in A&E for sunburn and heatstroke.

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Dental decay

When a BBC investigation showed nine in 10 NHS dental practices across the UK were not accepting new adult patients and eight in 10 NHS practices are not taking on children, the Department of Health said it had made an extra £50m available “to help bust the Covid backlogs” and that improving NHS access was a priority.

However, a follow-up to that using FOI found that while more than £8.5m was allocated to the Yorkshire and North East region by NHS England – promising “hundreds of thousands more dental appointments to help recovery of services” – no York dental practices applied to take part, YorkshireLive reports.

Just £1.4m was spent across Yorkshire and the Humber before the funding expired at the end of March.

Hate crime

Reports of homophobic and transphobic hate crime are rising at record rates, with charities calling the findings “deeply worrying”, Vice UK reports.

Police received 26,824 reports of hate crimes based on sexual orientation in 2021-22, compared to 10,003 in 2016-17 – representing an increase of 168%. The most recent reporting year saw the biggest annual increase ever recorded, at 32% in 12 months.

The rise of reports for transphobic hate crime was even higher. There were 1,292 reports of transphobic hate crime recorded in 2016-17, but 4,399 in 2021-22– a staggering increase of 59%, which is also the largest increase ever recorded.

Fake bombs

Cumbria Police have dealt with 18 fake bomb threats in the last ten years, The Mail reports. Among the shocking incidents recorded were:

  • One caller who said there was a bomb onboard a boat
  • A hoaxer who sent an email to public authority in another area saying they had bought fireworks and a bomb
  • A victim of a hoax being called and bomb was about to go off
  • And a caller to police saying there was a bomb inside a rucksack

A long time, far away

Scottish disability charities have written to Scottish Ministers urging them to urgently address the critical issue of learning disabled and autistic people spending long periods of time in hospitals and inappropriate out of area placements, following a BBC documentary exposing stories of disabled people locked into hospitals, far from home, and their families’ fight to get them home.

In the documentary, Locked in the Hospital, BBC reporter Lucy Adams investigated why four young men have been locked in secure hospitals for years. Responses to Freedom of Information requests reveal at least 40 people have been in hospital for more than ten years and at least 128 for more than a year.

Missing school

The new data, taken from a Freedom of Information request, shows in 2020/21, only eight Warrington parents were prosecuted through the Magistrates’ Court. As of July 11 this year, 36 parents in the town have been prosecuted through the courts – marking an increase of 350 per cent in just one year, according to the Warrington Guardian.

However, the data also shows that no penalty notices (fines) were given to parents in 2020/21, and no penalties have yet been issued this year, either.

Funeral poverty

Another knock-on impact of the cost of living crisis could be families with no money to bury their loved ones.

Seventy one people died in the North of Scotland last year with no one willing or able to pay for their funerals, at a cost of more than £100,000 to local authorities, the Press and Journal reports.

But campaigners warn numbers of people needing “council funerals” could escalate as funeral poverty worsens during this cost of living crisis.

Through Freedom of Information requests to Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Moray, Highland, Western Isles, Shetland and Orkney councils we have obtained the numbers of people requiring indigent funerals in 2020 and 2021. Numbers dropped from 82 indigent funerals in 2020 to 71 in 2021.

Long waits

The number of patients waiting for cataract surgery or physiotherapy has risen at Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, a freedom of information request (FOI) has revealed.

As of March this year 1,176 patients were waiting to have their cataract surgery compared to 1,095 the same time last year, according to the Basingstoke Gazette. There are also more patients waiting for a physiotherapy consultation, with 389 people waiting to be seen in March this year, while there were only 247 waiting last year.


Last week we covered the risks of electric police cars running out of power. That seems slightly more of a risk when you don’t have any charging points.

Police Scotland has invested almost £20 million over the last three years in electric vehicles as part of its drive to create “a fit-for-purpose, efficient, effective and sustainable 21st century police service”. But the Scottish Lib Dems said its research found the number of available charging points had not kept pace with the number of cars bought.

Figures obtained via Freedom of Information found there were 23 police stations with no chargers, the Daily Record reports. And one police officer alleged electric vehicles were being left overnight “in various council car parks” as a result.

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