FOI Disclosure Stories 3 – 9 August 2009

500 children a year abducted from UK – Guardian Unlimited 09/08/09
“Almost 500 children were abducted from the UK and taken abroad illegally last year, according to figures released to the Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act. There were 336 cases of child abduction reported to authorities in the UK in 2008, an increase of 20% on 2005 figures. These cases involved an estimated 470 children last year. More children were taken illegally to Pakistan than any other country (30 cases in 2008), followed by the USA (23), Ireland (22) and Spain (21). Other abduction hotspots included Australia, France and Egypt.”

Quangos spend at least £500000 on ‘pointless’ celebrity appearances – 09/08/09
“Quangos have spent at least half a million pounds of public money over the past three years hiring celebrities to host events or make after-dinner speeches, even if they have little or no connection with the cause. BBC news presenters including Kirsty Wark and Evan Davies, former England goalkeeper Peter Shilton and GMTV doctor Hilary Jones are among the household names to have received thousands of pounds in public appearance fees from the taxpayer…”

Scale of pest infestations in NHS hospitals revealed – 07/08/09
“Data released under the Freedom of Information Act shows NHS hospitals in England have dealt with almost 30,000 pest infestations since 2006. Exterminators were called to deal with black ants, wasps, rodents, cluster flies, biting insects, silver fish, woodlice, bird mites, maggots, pigeons, red spiders, may bugs, mosquitoes, ladybirds, bees, mice and fleas. The pests were found in all areas of hospitals including patient wards, operating theatres, maternity units, A&E and children’s wards as well as in kitchens, maintenance, offices and staff accommodation.”

Couples face an IVF postcode lottery – Daily and Sunday Express 06/08/09
“Couples are being denied IVF treatment on the NHS based on regional variations in eligibility guidelines. The study, released today by Tory MP Grant Shapps, was based on freedom of information requests to England’s primary care trusts on the availability of the therapy. It found 80 per cent of trusts were ignoring guidelines introduced in 2004 that allow women under 40 years old three free cycles of IVF. Mr Shapps described the service as a ‘postcode lottery’ because of the regional criteria discrepancies. Women in the East Midlands were able to have one full cycle of treatment while those aged between 23 and 39 in the South East were denied access at almost half of the trusts.”

Fury as hospitals rake in £111m from car parks
– The Daily Mail 06/08/09
“Hospitals were accused of ‘taxing the sick’ last night after it emerged they are charging more than £111million a year for car parking [according to the figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats under the Freedom of Information Act]… Some 23 hospitals collected more than £1million each from parking in 2007-08. Top of the list was Addenbrooke’s, in Cambridge, which raked in £2.8million from patients, relatives and staff. Walsgrave Hospital in Coventry was close behind, on £2.7million.”

Council workers sacked for snooping personal details – ComputerWeekly 05/08/09
“Nine staff have been sacked from their local authority jobs for snooping on personal records of celebrities and personal acquaintances held on the core database of the government’s National Identity Scheme. They are among 34 council workers who illegally accessed the Customer Information System (CIS) database, which holds the biographical data of the population that will underpin the government’s multi-billion-pound ID card programme… The CIS database, run by the Department for Work and Pensions, stores up to 9,800 items of information on 92 million people, including sensitive data, such as ethnicity, relationship history, whether someone is being investigated for fraud and whether they have special needs.”

How GPs are earning up to £380,000 a year – Daily Mail 04/08/09
“Family doctors are earning up to £380,000 a year, a Daily Mail investigation has revealed. GPs take home ‘jaw-dropping’ sums thanks to bonuses and overtime payments. They are being paid more than £200 an hour for evenings and weekends – work they did for free before the bungled introduction of a new contract in 2004. Six years ago GPs were paid around £70,000. Now Freedom of Information requests by the Mail have uncovered the astonishing way their pay has risen, even though the average GP is working seven fewer hours a week. The investigation found one GP earning £380,000 a year and a number pocketing more than £300,000.”
(Figures in this article are in dispute. See also “BMA hits back at £380,000-a-year pay claims” by Pulse and “PCC to investigate Daily Mail over £380,000-a-year GP pay claims” by Pulse)

U.K. Royal Mint Doubles Gold Output as Demand Swells – Bloomberg 04/08/09
“The U.K.’s Royal Mint, established in the 13th century, doubled production of gold coins in the second quarter as demand surged for bullion to diversify investments. Output climbed to 16,910 ounces from 8,030 ounces a year earlier, according to data obtained by Bloomberg News under a Freedom of Information Act request. First-half production jumped 86 percent to 45,406 ounces, the figures show.”

Trusts still falling short on KSF commitment – Nursing Times 04/08/09
“Nurses could be missing out on vital training and development opportunities because NHS organisations are failing to use the Knowledge and Skills Framework (KSF) scheme, according to exclusive Nursing Times research. The KSF was set up as an integral part of the Agenda for Change pay system… Of those trusts that could provide information, the proportion of staff receiving a KSF outline was 79%, 59% had had an appraisal and 58% had a PDP.”

BBC spends licence fee payers’ money on luxurious villa to entertain in Cannes
– Guardian Unlimited 03/08/09
“[A] luxurious villa perched on a hilltop overlooking Cannes has had more prosaic guests in the last three years – executives from the BBC who have been using it as a base and for entertaining. In figures released to the Guardian after a Freedom of Information request, the corporation admitted spending £90,530 on five separate hirings of the villa and related travel and hospitality since 2006, most recently in April.”

Larger wine glasses and ladette culture blamed for rise in women drink drivers
– 03/08/09
“Almost 12,000 women were convicted for drink driving in 2007, compared to more than 8400 a decade earlier, the latest Ministry of Justice figures show. The figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, showed the number of men found guilty of the offence fell by almost a third over the same period, from 91,777, to 77,529. Women now account for one in every eight drink-drivers caught on the road compared to one in every 12 a decade ago although men still commit the majority of the offences.”


Households in Sheffield have fluoride added to their water – Yorkshire Post 03/08/09
“Fluoride is being added to the drinking water of more than 50,000 households in Yorkshire. Around 56,000 homes in the Sheffield area receive supplies mixed with the mineral. The figure, released under the Freedom of Information Act, comes as an official investigation into the pros and cons of mixing Yorkshire’s drinking water with fluoride takes place. The measure, which is intended to stave off tooth decay in children but has raised health concerns from critics, is being investigated by the Yorkshire and Humber Strategic Health Authority (SHA).”

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