FOI FRIDAY: 10 things we’ve learnt this week thanks to the Freedom of Information Act

The Alcoholic baby

Starting this week with the Journal in Newcastle, which used FOI to find out the extent of alcohol-related problems suffered by children admitted to hospital:

Under the Freedom of Information Act, The Journal asked North East health trusts for details of children aged between 0 and 17 who were found to have consumed alcohol when they were treated in hospital over the last five years.

The answer was almost 1,800 – including 22 under 10 and one less than 1.

Stressed police

Almost 4,000 policing days were lost in North Wales last year due to depression and stress, according to  figures obtained by the Daily Post.

The Welsh Assembly’s office in Sydney

A brilliant tale which appears to have started life on the letters page of the Shropshire Star. A reader used FOI to find out where the Welsh Assembly had offices. There are 72 in Wales, 16 of which are in Cardiff – plus plenty abroad too. I remember Lancashire County Council used to have an office in Brussels, but this FOI could have legs for all manner of authorities – not least the soon to be departed regional development agencies.

The NHS and obese people

Is the NHS failing the morbidly obese? The South Wales Echo found out, using FOI, that just one in 10 people referred to hospitals for weight loss treatment were paid for by the NHS. In many cases, people had resorted to taking out loans to cover the treatment. There’s a moral argument in here as well – but also a good extraction of data via FOI.

Blunders in hospitals

Asking for details of ‘Serious untoward incidents’ in hospitals is an FOI request I’ve mentioned here before, but it’s worth mentioning again because I’ve heard of a few cases where health trusts are remarkably keen to keep them a secret. This story from the BBC in the North East shows why it is essential we know when things go wrong.

Health cuts

We all know cuts are coming, but what’s the thinking that is going into them and what is planned? The Yorkshire Post got in before the spin started at one hospital, using FOI to reveal 40 management jobs were at risk

Parents fined for term-time holidays?

Remember the Labour decision to let schools fine parents if they took the kids out of class for holidays in term-time without permission? The Wimbledon Guardian used FOI to find out how many days hd been lost to term-time holidays – 13,000 – but followed it up to ask how many fines had been issued. Answer: none

Doctors ‘gagged’ after becoming whistleblowers

A fascinating collaboration between Channel 4 and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism into the gagging clauses put into the contracts of doctors and surgeons who had made settlements with their hospitals to leave – often because they have been whistleblowers. One for many local papers to follow up, I guess.

How much tax owed?

Good use of FOI by the Taxpayers Alliance to bring new facts to the discussion about the state of finances at football clubs. It asked HMRC for details of how much tax is currently owed by football clubs – answer more than £20million. I suspect details of individual clubs would not be disclosed, but if HMRC is prepared to release details by sector, would it release details by area?

Reasons for explusion

And finally for this week, the Romford Recorder reports on the reasons why 1,000 pupils have been expelled in the area. The facts on why people are excluded from school makes it so more interesting.

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FOI Friday is compiled using a Google search for news stories containing the words ‘Freedom of Information.’ If you have a story from FOI which you think should be in here, please let me know….


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