You are currently viewing Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 3/5/2024 – #FOIFriday

Freedom of Information in the news – week ending 3/5/2024 – #FOIFriday

The saga of the optical illusion cycle path continues.

And it’s a nice example of using freedom of information requests to keep up with a story.

If you’ve been reading FOI Friday on a regular basis, you may remember the “optical illusion” cycle lane installed in Keynsham, Somerset.

An early FOI by a local councillor revealed it had caused 59 injuries since it was opened in March 2021. At that point 21 people were pursuing personal injury claims against Bath and North East Somerset Council.

Psychology professors were called in to try to explain why people were tripping. Eventually the council repainted part of the cycle lane to make it clearer and less of a trip hazard.

But what happened to the personal injury claims for those who had come a cropper? An FOI found 40 people have sought compensation from the council for their injuries but to date no payments have been made. Thirty claims have been dismissed while 10 remain ongoing.

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Ambulance taxi

Desperately ill 999 patients are increasingly having to make their own way to hospital, new NHS data suggests.

Patients in need of “very urgent emergency care” arriving at A&E not in an ambulance has increased by almost 40% since 2019. The data was obtained under Freedom of Information laws by the Liberal Democrats which warns the Government has created an “Uber ambulance crisis”.

NHS Trusts were asked for the number of patients who arrived at their A&E departments not in an ambulance, broken down by the urgency and severity of their condition.

Some 504,276 patients classed as Code 2, meaning they were deemed to be in need of “very urgent emergency care”, arrived at A&E not in an ambulance in 2023. This was up 11,500 (2.4%) compared to the previous year, and up 141,000 (38.9%) compared to 2019.

Out of order ambulances

Another FOI might suggest one of the reasons why people are having to make their own way to hospital.

More than one in four ambulances are off the road due to maintenance or reliability issues in some areas, an investigation reveals.

Just 78 per cent of ambulances nationally are operational on any given day – falling to as low as 72 per cent at South Central Ambulance Trust.

The GMB union said the figures, obtained under Freedom of Information laws, show urgent action is required if the NHS is to meet critical performance targets.

Missed cancer deaths

A report has found there have been three deaths due to ‘missed cancers’ at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust over the past three years.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request by Medical Negligence Assist (MNA) confirmed three patients had died at the Trust since 2021.

The Trust said it could not be confirmed if these deaths were due to a ‘wrong diagnosis’, or a ‘failure’ or ‘delay’ in diagnosis

Armed shoplifters

Armed shoplifting in London was 91% higher last year compared with the period just before Sadiq Khan took office, data reveals.

Met Police statistics released to Liberal Democrat mayoral candidate Rob Blackie through a Freedom of Information request showed that shoplifting in general was 34% higher in 2023 than 2015.

In 2015, the last full year before Khan took over from Boris Johnson, there were some 456 recorded instances of shoplifting which involved the use of weapons or tools. The number rose in Khan’s first years in office, reaching 844 recorded offences in 2018.

The figure went down dramatically in the pandemic, but has since rebounded to hit 874 offences in 2023.

Phones in schools

You can potentially use FOI as a survey tool by sending requests to a sample of one type of public body (as you probably wouldn’t want to send requests to all of the thousands of schools in the UK).

Policy Exchange sent freedom of information requests to 800 primary and secondary schools in the UK in December – and 407 schools responded, either fully or in part, to the questions asked about mobile phone policies.

The investigation suggested that only 11% of secondary schools had an “effective ban” on mobile phones in place – where they were not allowed on the site or were stored away in lockers at the start of the school day.

More than half (52%) said they banned phones during the school day but they were kept with the student, and 36% had a “partial ban” – where phones were banned in some places but allowed in others.


Not the ones that make pedalling up a steep hill a bit less of a challenge, but those that are more like mopeds pretending to be bikes.

Police statistics shows that 260 electric powered bicycles were seized by officers last year, double the 130 confiscated in 2022 and four times as many as the 61 which were taken in the year before.

The figures were obtained by The Telegraph from 15 forces following Freedom of Information requests, but the true scale is thought to be much larger as many of England and Wales’s 43 police authorities don’t collect specific data on these seizures.


A crisis in forensic services where police forces spend a fraction of the time needed on tests is behind soaring rates of unsolved crimes and innocent people being wrongly convicted, experts have told i.

Fibre analysis can be used as evidence to indicate if a suspect was present at a crime scene and has helped crack some of the country’s most high-profile cases including the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993 and the killing of eight-year-old Sarah Payne in 2000.

According to Freedom of Information data shared with i, forces paid for less than 1,000 hours of fibre analysis per year between 2018 and 2020 – the equivalent of around 30 hours for each of the 43 forces in England and Wales.

Sexual assaults in pubs

Police figures show that only two out of 19 reports of sexual assaults in pubs, bars and clubs in four major towns have resulted in arrests.

This newspaper’s Freedom of Information request (FOI) to Suffolk Police showed the data from drinking venues in Beccles, Bungay, Halesworth and Lowestoft from 2020 to the present.

Lowestoft had the highest number of reports of sexual assaults made to police, with 16 reports made to police with two arrests made.

Scarlet fever

There have been more than 12,000 reported cases of scarlet fever in the last few months in the UK alone.

Commonly associated with the Victorian era, the bacterial illness has increased by a staggering 300 per cent in certain parts of the UK in what experts have described as a ‘notable resurgence’.

NowPatient, who submitted a Freedom of Information request to NHS trusts across the country says the most significant jump in cases belongs to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. In 2019, the medical facility only saw five cases of scarlet fever – but witnessed 20 cases last year.

Illegal vapes

In 2023, Belfast City Council confiscated 671 illegal vapes, enough for two to be sold every day in the city alone. This comes as the Council has been conducting visits and test exercises in vape shops following public complaints of selling products to under-18s, resulting in multiple shop closures.

The data, obtained through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by smoking cessation advocates Vape Club, has been released in the 2024 Illegal Vaping Report. The report analyses data from 152 UK local authorities, revealing five years of illegal vaping seizures, business possession, and enforcement insights.

Cyber attacks

Breaches in data security, including two cyber attacks, in the last three years have cost Lancashire County Council £51,000 in compensation payments.

The authority has revealed it has suffered 19 personal data breach incidents since 2021. The compensation pay-out total is the third highest figure of all county councils in the UK.

Image by Yaroslav Shuraev on Pexels

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