FOI Friday: Tonsils, waiting in ambulances, thefts from courts and some interesting emails

Courts were told to push for tougher sentences

When doing FOI Friday, I try and pick FOI stories which can be replicated elsewhere. Based on that criteria, including this story from The Guardian seems a bit odd. Basically, the Guardian got hold of court emails which encouraged magistrates to direct riot-related offences to crown court for sentence. The reason I’ve included it is because it demonstrates just how powerful FOI can be if you go beyond numbers and ask for documents. Emails can be a rich source of stories – from memos directing traffic wardens where to target for parking through to stuff like this.

Boozing in the North East

There’s something particularly good about this use of FOI. Yes, it’s about hospital admissions relating to drink, but it’s just so thorough. The Sunday Sun reveals how the number of admissions to hospital for alcohol-related matters have rocketed in five years. But they also asked for age-group breakdown – those in their 40s and 50s are the biggest group – the youngest admissions, and a breakout for cases treated in A&E alone. Good stuff.

Thefts from courts

Thieves, says Wales on Sunday, use their day in court to indulge in a bit of theft. That’s what figures WoS got hold of under FOI reveal, showing the number of reports of thefts from court houses across Wales.

Supply teacher costs

In Rochdale, schools spend more than £1million a year on supply teachers. Nothing new in this FOI you might say, but if you read the story you’ll see it’s a great example of FOI results being just the start of the story, not the whole story. By asking schools to justify the costs, a different story emerges – such as a head who prefers to use agency staff rather than teachers on short-term contracts. But what’s better for pupils  – one teacher on a short-term contract or a string of agency staff? In the light of pending budget cuts, this FOI is perhaps more relevant than ever.


The number of tonsil removals is on the decline in Wigan. And that, according to experts, is building up a cancer ‘timebomb’ for the future.

Waiting in an ambulance

If you go to hospital in an ambulance, and wait for more than 15 minutes to be seen by hospital staff, it gets logged. And in the East Midlands, the number of people waiting is on the up. Known as hospital handovers, 98,000 were delayed by at least 15 minutes according to the BBC in the East Midlands, 64% up on the year before. I can remember when this information was released in board papers at ambulance trusts.

Staff suspended at a primary care trust

Some interesting numbers from the Runcorn and Widnes Weekly News, which reports on the number of members of staff suspended from the local primary care trust. It turns out some staff have been suspended for almost three years. Knowing what the reason for suspension was would be fascinating.

Punishments relating to social networks

Scotland on Sunday reports on the number of cases where universities discipline people for things they have written on social networks. Interestingly, it also reports on the number of universities which admits monitoring what is written on social networks. Worth asking other univerisites this side of the border to find out what their policies for monitoring social networks are?

Using FOI for a bit of positive self publicity

Remember the FOI to the Department for Transport which asked for the websites staff viewed? It gave the answers in hits – of which there can be several for each page viewed, depending on the elements on it. Anyway, this FOI appears to have taken on a life of its own in the regional press, with the Brighton Argus the latest to record what council officers view online. Including 32million hits to the Brighton Argus website. Which must be a relief to them.

More from the gift which keeps on giving: Compensation payouts at schools

Compensation payouts for children at school could well turn out to be the new ‘How old is your oldest criminal’ in terms of FOI. This week, The Sunday Mercury joined the list of newspapers to give it a whirl, coming up with a £9k payout for a slip in a gym, while other injuries involved golf clubs and electric drills.


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