Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 21/4/2023 – #FOIFriday

This week in FOI: Everything is on fire…and the opposition parties have noticed.

(Also it’s, like, two weeks to the local elections. That probably also has something to do with it).

Freedom of Information is a fantastic campaigning tool. Particularly when coupled with the ability to generate lots of local stories (by sending out requests across the country) and getting lots of hard-hitting headlines.

Dead on arrival

More than 43,000 people were declared dead by the time an ambulance arrived last year. That’s according to data obtained through Freedom of Information requests by the Liberal Democrats. The North West recorded the highest number of patients classed as dead on arrival in 2022, out of the seven responses, with 8,450 patients.

The Lib Dems said the statistics were “truly shocking”. They blamed “a Conservative government starving the NHS of the resources it needs”. But the Department of Health and Social Care said it was “misleading” to imply a link between deaths and ambulance waiting times.

Long cancer waits

Some NHS cancer patients are waiting more 18 months for diagnosis or treatment. Labour revealed the figures following FOI requests to hospital trusts. Data for 2022 shows someone in Somerset waited about a year and eight months for a test or scan. It should only be two weeks.

Around 500,000 suspected cancer patients waited longer than the recommended two weeks to see a specialist after being referred by a GP. Someone in Lincolnshire had to wait almost a year. Figures for 2021 show someone waited almost three years for a diagnosis or to have cancer ruled out.

Hanging on the telephone

The UK government has missed targets for increasing the number of ambulance and emergency care call handlers, according to figures obtained through FOI requests by the Labour Party. As of January, the NHS was short of 250 staff for its 111 service and 100 handlers answering 999 calls.

The data also revealed that in December, one 999 caller in Yorkshire was forced to wait for an hour and a half before their call was even answered. The longest 111 response time in December was three hours and five minutes for a caller in the Midlands.

Anti-social behaviour

Figures released by the Lib Dems reveal that in 2020 alone 860,000 incidents of anti-social behaviour went unattended by a police officer. The party estimates more than 2,000 complaints about anti-social behaviour went unanswered by police each day last year – with an alarming 4.3 million cases over five years

Of the 38 police forces who submitted full responses, the worst performers last year were Avon & Somerset and Cambridgeshire – with 81% and 80% of anti-social behaviour reports going unattended respectively.

Car theft

This looks like a really clever use of FOI by the Lib Dems – ask about attendance rates at several different crimes (they also did burglary) and package the responses into several stories.

Cambridgeshire Police attended less than 12% of vehicle thefts in 2022, making it one of the worst performing forces in the country, according to new figures obtained through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the Liberal Democrats. Out of the 1,279 reported incidents, only 152 had police attend, leaving 88% of vehicle thefts unattended.

Agency spend

Bolton’s NHS trust spent £6.8 million on agency doctors from private agencies last year. That’s according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

These doctors are brought in as cover when there aren’t enough staff on shift, usually at a far higher price than full-time NHS workers. A previous FOI by Bolton News found that one agency had been able to charge fees of over £1000 on average for a single nursing shift.

Unsociable discharges

Figures obtained by the Scottish Conservatives using freedom of information requests revealed 38,535 patients were released from hospital after 10pm in 2022. Of that number, 16,488 patients were discharged between midnight and 5am, while a further 4,993 patients were released between 3am and 5am.

the Tories warned that middle-of-the-night discharges could put elderly and vulnerable patients at risk due to a lack of available care services. The Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board area had the most late-night discharges, with almost 10,000 patients released from hospitals between 10pm and 5am.

No penalty

Kettering’s anti-social behaviour order is a “waste of time” as no one has been punished for breaching it in the last five years. The Public Spaces Protection Order was introduced in 2016. It allowed police and council officials to issue £100 fines for breaching rules such as bans on street drinking and begging, and even skateboarding in certain areas (until that was dropped).

However, a Freedom of Information request by the Northamptonshire Telegraph has revealed that no one has been given a fixed penalty notice for violating the order in 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 or 2022.

Rail replacement taxi

Figures obtained by the Scottish Liberal Democrats revealed that publicly-owned rail operator, ScotRail, spent more than £200,000 on taxis for stranded passengers due to cancelled trains. In one instance, the operator spent £798.30 on an eight-seater taxi from Wick to Inverness, stopping at all train stations in between.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats criticized the move, pointing out the cost is in addition to the £650,000 paid out for delayed rail services. However, Transport Minister Kevin Stewart argued that the figures represent less than 0.004% of over 58 million journeys between April 2022 and March 2023.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.