I have had a reply from the information commissioner 16 months after I first made a request to see the PCT report on Hallams proposed heath centre on the Weddington development.
It seems the ICO can do nothing about the PCT supplying a possibly faked document.
27 November 2012
Your complaints to Warwickshire PCT
Dear Mr Kondakor
As you may recall I have been investigating your complaints about Warwickshire PCTs responses to your FOI requests.
I wrote to the PCT and asked it to confirm its position and provide further arguments to support its decision to withhold the requested information if it maintained that no information was held or that information could not be disclosed. I have now received further submissions from the PCT.
FOI971 – Request of 8 July 2011
This request was for:
- “Please supply details of which 4 of the 12 GPs in Nuneaton are likely to be closed or need upgrading.
- Please supply details that have been provided to Hallam.
- Please also supply details of expenses claimed by your non-exec board members during the last 2 years.”
The PCTs response was that an estates strategy was in the process of being completed and would be published in the Autumn, it provided an explanation with regards to (2) and a spreadsheet with total expenses paid to non-executive directors in response to (3). Any information not provided was being withheld on the basis of section 43 of the FOIA. I explained that I would be focusing on the PCTs response to (1) and (2) as it appeared information had been provided with respect (3).
FOI1176 – Request of 25 January 2012
This request was for:
“1) the rapid health assessment related to Hallam land proposed development at Weddington in Nuneaton
2) any related correspondence regarding proposal with regards to the impact of the Development on NHS provision in Nuneaton.
3) any documents relating the changes to the GP provision in Nuneaton.”
In this case the PCT provided information in response to (1) but stated no information was held in response to (2) and (3). I explained that I would be focusing on the PCTs statement that no information was held and whether the laptop it mentioned it was retrieving had now been searched.
The PCT has explained that it had applied the section 43 (commercial interests) exemption in relation to the first request but had not at the time identified any specific information which this would relate to. It applied section 43 as it considered that any information which may exist within the scope of the request would be likely to be commercially sensitive.
The PCT further explained that the statement about the 4 GPs likely to need upgrading or be closed was not based on fact and that GPs enter into their own business arrangements in relation to the development of their practice premises, often investing their own funds. A request is then made to the PCT for rent reimbursement charges which are considered as part of a business case process and discussed in part 2 of the PCT Board meetings as the cases include commercially sensitive. For this reason the PCT had concluded that should information it would be exempt under section 43 of the FOIA as it would relate to commercial discussions between GPs, developers and/or funders.
However, following the investigation by the ICO the PCT has conducted searches for information within the scope of this part of the request and confirmed that no information is held. Therefore the PCT is withdrawing its reliance on section 43 and instead states there is no information it can provide.
With regards to your request of 8 July, and to the searches conducted by the PCT to determine no information was held in relation to your earlier request, the PCT provided the Commissioner with further details of the searches it carried out to determine no information was held.
As part of its searches the PCT has confirmed it did retrieve the laptop that had been issued to a former employee and all of its folders and email accounts were searched with the following search terms – Weddington, Hallam, 106 (for section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act). I would consider that these search terms were broad enough that any information within the scope of the request would have been identified from these searches. The PCT did identify some files from these searches and examined each one individually to see if they related to the development in question.
This resulted in two files being found that were within the scope of your request, both of which the PCT states had already been provided to you:
- Letter to Peter Glazebrook (30 November 2011)
- Desktop Health Impact Assessment
In addition to this the PCT has informed the Commissioner that when this employee left an exit interview was conducted and all paper records were handed to the Director of Estates. These files have also been examined and no information within the scope of the request was found.
When responding to my initial email to you, you raised concerns about what you described as “a seemingly faked RHIA” dated 19 August 2011. Unfortunately this is outside the remit of what the Commissioner can investigate, our role is to determine whether information within the scope of a request has been provided but does not extend to commenting on the accuracy of information or making determinations on the authenticity of documents that are provided.
In conclusion, taking into account all of the above, my view is that the PCT has carried out adequate searches and does not hold any further information in relation to your requests.
The Commissioner can issue a decision notice in this case, setting out his findings as to whether the PCT has correctly applied the FOIA and specifying any steps he requires them to take. However, the Commissioner prefers complaints to be resolved by informal means and my initial view is that it would not be of any benefit to proceed to a formal decision notice as my conclusions in this matter, as detailed above, would simply be mirrored in any decision notice drafted.
As I am satisfied the PCT carried out adequate searches to conclude that no information was held if you do wish to add any further arguments to support your view that information is held then please focus on why you think more information would be held and let me have your views by 11 December. If I do not hear back from you by this date I will assume you are satisfied with my conclusions and close the case.
If you would like to discuss this any further then please feel free to contact me.
Senior Case Officer