FOI Media Update June 2012

GP practice offloaded vulnerable patients to save money 31.05.2012 – The Guardian
A GP practice run by a doctor who has been of one of the most prominent supporters of Andrew Lansley’s health reforms de-registered elderly and disabled care home patients to save money. The NHS launched an investigation into Churchill medical practice in Kingston last year after complaints that it had let go of 48 patients who required high levels of care. NHS South-West London found that Churchill was in breach of its “contractual obligations to patients” by removing the patients and that it had done so “predominantly for financial reasons”. The NHS issued a breach of contract notice. Three infringements would mean that Churchill’s GP’s lost the right to practice.

Most PCT’s restricting access to cataract surgery 1.06.2012 – Cataract online
Over half of Primary Care Trusts (57 per cent) in England are restricting access to cataract surgery with visual acuity thresholds, forcing thousands of people to live with unnecessary sight loss, according to new research by the Royal National Institute of Blind People. Of the PCTs with restrictions on access, 70 per cent have a very restrictive policy with little or no leeway for patients outside the visual acuity threshold.

FPB investigates public sector payment habits 1.06.2012 – SmallBusiness
The Forum of Private Business has submitted freedom of information (FOI) requests to local councils in England asking how long they take to pay their suppliers. In 2009, almost a year after the government urged councils to follow the example of central departments and commit to paying their suppliers within ten days, FOI research carried out by the Forum revealed a ‘postcode lottery’ for council supplier payments. Overall, the average time local authorities took to pay invoices was almost double the ten-day target, at 19 days. The UK average for the payment of bills within ten days was 42 per cent, but stark regional variations meant that this figure was as high as 52 per cent in some areas and as low as 11 per cent in others.

Thousands of EU students owe £20 million in unpaid loans but just nine have been taken to court
– 6.06.2012 The Telegraph
Nearly half of all students from European Union countries, who can take advantage of subsidised student loans like British students, are failing to meet their repayments. According to official figures, 42 per cent of students from the 26 EU countries outside the UK who owe money after studying at English universities had disappeared or were in arrears as of last April. The total outstanding debt at the end of 2009/10 was £47.4 million.

Three million savers map too much tax on their savings 7.06.2012 The Telegraph
HM Revenue and Customs has admitted that as many as 3.5 million people should have been liable to pay just 10pc tax on their savings, during 2009/10 – rather than the 20pc tax that is automatically deducted. But a freedom of information request revealed that only 718,000 had applied to have this tax repaid.

Devon and Cornwall police taser use nearly doubles 18.06.2012 – BBC News
The number of times police have used tasers in Devon and Cornwall has nearly doubled over a two-year period. Figures obtained by the BBC through the Freedom of Information Act show the stun guns were used 34 times in 2010 and 65 times last year. Devon and Cornwall police said the rise could be linked to the increased number of officers now trained to use tasers. Of the force’s 3,200 officers, 480 are trained to use tasers, up from 150 before 2009 and spending on the weapon rose from £33,470 in 2009 to £101,379 last year. Nineteen of the 34 people that were shot with a taser in 2010 were charged with an offence and 37 of the 65 shot in 2011 were charged.

Tobacco investments to be reconsidered by Norfolk and Essex councils 18.06.2012 – BBC News
Two councils in the East region are to reconsider multi-million pound pension fund investments in tobacco before they take a lead role in NHS anti-smoking campaigns in 2013. The move comes after a BBC Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request showed councils across the region have invested more than £167m in tobacco. Norfolk has invested £25.9m while Essex has invested £9.1m. The two councils have said they would now review their investments.

Pressure on budgets makes primary health care trusts limit operations 19.06.2012 – The Guardian
Pressure to save money has left 90% of primary care trusts restricting procedures including hip, knee and cataract operations, weight loss surgery and tonsillectomies, according to freedom of information requests by GP Magazine. GP magazine said information released by 101 of the 151 primary care trusts showed nine in 10 had procedures to restrict GP referrals for procedures thought to be non-urgent or of low clinical value. Limits on cataract surgery have been ordered in two-thirds of trusts, while six in 10 restricted weight-loss surgery and hip and knee operations.

Police body given ‘cloak of secrecy’ 26.06.2012 – Yorkshire Post
The Government is facing backbench opposition over the total exemption from the FOI Act given to the new National Crime Agency, which will not be required to answer questions about spending and other non-operational matters.The decision echoes the previous Labour government’s decision to exempt the now-defunct Serious and Organised Crime Agency from FoI laws, and contradicts the coalition’s commitment to create a “new era of openness and transparency” in public services.

Number of animals used in University of Leeds testing revealed 28.06.2012 – Yorkshire Evening Post
Almost 17,000 animals were used in medical experiments conducted by the University of Leeds last year – and most of them were killed. A Freedom of Information request submitted by the Yorkshire Evening Post revealed the university has carried out experiments on 55,235 mice and 5,155 rats over the past five years.Other animals subjected to scientific tests between 2007 and 2011 were pigs, sheep, bats, gerbils, rabbits, guinea pigs, toads, frogs, and birds.A university spokesperson said the “overwhelming majority” of laboratory animals were killed at the end of procedures so their tissues could be examined.


US Secret Service agents’ alleged scandals since 2004 revealed 15.06.2012 The Guardian
The US government has revealed details of serious allegations against Secret Service agents and officers since 2004, including claims of involvement with prostitutes, leaking sensitive information, publishing pornography, sexual assault, illegal wiretaps, improper use of weapons and drunken behaviour. It was not clear how many of the accusations were confirmed to be true. The heavily redacted list on 229 pages was released under the US Freedom of Information Act. It follows a scandal in April, in which Secret Service agents were alleged to have engaged prostitutes when assigned to protect the president at an international gathering in Colombia.

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