Information commissioner raps NHS for FoI failure

Rosemary Agnew, the Scottish Information Commissioner in New Register House, Edinburgh.  The commissioner's 2012 annual report is due out.

Rosemary Agnew, the Scottish Information Commissioner in New Register House, Edinburgh. The commissioner's 2012 annual report is due out.

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NHS Borders breached the Freedom of Information Act by wrongly telling a researcher it did not have the information he needed.

Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC) Rosemary Agnew ruled the health board should have told Dr Joseph Reddington it had further information on his request concerning its purchase and supply of communication devices used for those with speech and language impairments over a six-year period.

However, Mrs Agnew agreed NHS Borders was not obliged to comply with Dr Reddington’s request as it would have cost the public organisation nearly £1,400 to trawl through thousands of order forms – way above the £600 cost within which public authorities must answer FoI questions.

Dr Reddington, who works at the University of London, made FoI requests to health boards across the UK as part of his personal research on whether a “postcode lottery” exists regarding AAC devices. His work is inspired by how the equipment changed the life of his brother, who cannot speak.

However, NHS Borders told him in March it could not provide a breakdown of his application, claiming it did not hold a record of purchases.

The health board upheld its original decision when asked for a review by Dr Reddington, who then took his case to the SIC.

After the SIC’s decision, NHS Borders has been told to advise the academic what relevant information can be located and provided within the £600 cost limit by September 15.