FOI FRIDAY: Maternity problems, schools failing fire checks, polluted rivers and cats stuck up trees

The dash to hospital - but will it be open?

1. Closed maternity units

It must be every new parent’s worst nightmare. Route to hospital carefully planned when contractions start, overnight bag packed, journey completed – only to be told the maternity unit is full. More worrying still is how common this scenario is, something the Western  Mail revealed when it asked hospitals for the number of times it had had to announce maternity units were full. (Source: Western Mail)

2. Banned from the school bus

Stories about schoolchildren misbehaving on the school bus are quite common, but how big is the problem overall? The Carlisle News and Star used Cumbria County Council to get statistics through FOI which show 14 children have been banned from buses for bad behaviour. (Source: Carlisle News and Star)

3. Fire checks in schools

When the fire service carries out inspections of public buildings and workplaces, it can issue enforcement notices to get improvements done. The Lancashire Telegraph asked how many schools had been issued with enforcement notices and for what reasons. Answer: 7. Quite worrying if your school is involved. (Source: Lancashire Telegraph)

4. Polluted rivers

Stories which promote the return of certain waterlife to rivers are often put out by the Environment Agency – but figures on the number of rivers which fail to meet European standards for pollution and biodiversity paint a slightly different picture, as an FOI-based story in the Yorkshire Post, using information from the Environment Agency. (Source: Yorkshire Post)

5. Cats stuck up trees

What sort of animal rescues do fire services do these days? It’s not just cats up trees as the the Brighton Argus found out. (Source: Brighton Argus)

6. Assaults on Council staff

We’ve had FOI requests for attacks on policemen, firemen, social workers and teachers in recent months – but what about council officers in general, many of whom are in jobs where you wouldn’t expect to ever see violence? The Bristol Evening Post reports on 700 attacks against council staff. (Source: Bristol Evening Post)

7. Attacks on postmen by cats and dogs

It’s always worth remembering that the Royal Mail is covered by FOI and the Coventry Telegraph scored a strong story when it reported the number of attacks by dogs – and cats – on posties in the last year: 155, up from 55 a year two years ago. (Source: Coventry Telegraph)

8. Exercising caution

An FOI which I’m sure I’ve mentioned before but one which is probably worth revisiting even if you have done it before – the number of cautions issued by police and the crimes alleged to have been committed. The Bradford Telegraph and Argus reports on 8,000 cautions in its area, including some for what would appear to be quite serious sex offences. If you have done this FOI before, then a year-on-year comparison could be in order? (Source: Bradford Telegraph and Argus)

9. The tram that has taken three years to repair

To Manchester and an FOI which demonstrates that asking for documents can sometimes really yield results. The Manchester Evening News managed to stand up the story of the tram which had been off the rails for three years (no, not the one in the Coronation Street crash) because mechanics couldn’t work out what was wrong with it. (Source: Manchester Evening News)

10. More on ‘serious untoward incidents’ in the NHS

And finally, further proof on how good stories emerge from an FOI request to NHS trusts about ‘serious untoward incidents’ which all such trusts are obliged to report. The Chester Chronicle splashed on its findings  from the North West Ambulance Service, which included the case of a person who was locked up in an ambulance garage overnight after drivers forgot they had a patient on board.  (Source: Chester Chronicle)

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