FOIs to South West NHS cartel already prove DH lied in its own FOI response

I wrote early this morning about my FOI ‘blitz’ to each of the Trusts that make up the ‘South-West Pay, Terms & Conditions Cartel Consortium’ last night. I sent 2 requests to each Trust with the aim of getting at the truth about the Department of Health’s communications with the cartel.

Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, respondents have 20 working days to reply to FOI requests. Well, we’re only on day one and even the preliminary responses have been very revealing – proving that the DH lied in its response to my request about its communications with the cartel and its members.

The FOI request I sent to the DH was as follows:

Under the Freedom of Information Act, I require:

1) Copies of any communications, over the past 12 months from the date of this request, between DH and South West Pay Terms and Conditions Consortium/South West Consortium Partnership – including
minutes/transcripts of meetings or phone calls, and including communications between DH and any of the constituent members of the consortium.

2) Dates, times and locations of any meetings between DH personnel and executives of either the constituent trusts or the consortium/partnership itself, during the same period.

As you can see, the request was very explicit in including communications between the DH and the member Trusts of the cartel.

The response I received from the DH indicated that the only communications it had had with the ‘consortium’ or its members over a period of a little more than 12 months consisted of 3 emails on a single day, plus one phone-call mentioned in one of the emails.

By contrast, the first two initial responses I received from the member Trusts indicated that the information covered by the request was too great for them to respond within the £450 cost limit allowed under the FOI Act. This certainly wouldn’t apply to 3 emails and a phone-call, even if all of them were with one of those two Trusts. Strongly suggestive that the DH lied, but not quite a ‘smoking gun’.

However, the 3rd initial response – from North Bristol NHS Trust – definitely qualifies as proof positive that the DH’s response to my FOI request was so misleading as to be a lie:

You have asked for all correspondence between the Trust and the Department of Health over the past year. As you can imagine the Trust would be in continual communication with the Department of Health on a variety of subjects.

Could you please confirm specific communications (subject) you might be interested in?

‘Continual communication’ vs 3 emails and a phone-call. Either the Trust isn’t telling the truth – which makes no sense at all and is contradicted by the first two responses in any case – or the DH lied.

The full responses are going to be very interesting, but the requests have already shown that the DH is avoiding a proper response to the question of its communications with the cartel and its members. Quite clearly, it has something to hide (just as when it blocked the FOI release of the ‘risk-register’ on its NHS Act) – and Lansley and co are elbow-deep in a matter which they claim not only not to be directly involved in, but even to disagree with!

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