Devon Partnership NHS Trust has tried to abuse the ‘commercial interest’ exemption in the Freedom of Information Act, and to point to ‘public’ information on its websites that is not there, to avoid answering my FOI request for information on its communications with the South-West NHS-pay cartel. Here’s the response I got:
“We confirm that this Trust holds documents as specified in your request.
However, we are withholding that information since we consider that exemptions set
out below apply to the information contained in those documents.
Section 21(1) – some of the information sought is information which is reasonably
accessible to you otherwise than under section 1 of the Act. Minutes and related
documents from trust board sessions held in public which may refer to the south west
pay terms and conditions consortium are available on the Trust website.
http://www.devonpartnership.nhs.uk/. In addition to this a new website –
www.meetingthechallenge.info – has been established which aims to provide as much
detail as possible on the work of the consortium, including an FAQ and latest news
Section 41(1) – insofar as the information held is not published as set out above it is
exempt from disclosure as it comprises information which has been obtained from
others in confidence and disclosure to the public would constitute an actionable
breach of confidence
Section 43(2) – further or alternatively, insofar as the information held is not published
as set out above it is exempt from disclosure as it comprises information the disclosure
of which would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of the Trust
and/or other parties to the Consortium.”
I have requested a review (a necessary step before referring the matter to the Information Commissioner) as follows:
“Dear Devon Partnership NHS Trust,
Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of
I am writing to request an internal review of Devon Partnership NHS
Trust’s handling of my FOI request ‘Communications with the SW Pay,
Terms & Conditions Consortium’.
Public board meetings can be excluded from the request, but the
remainder of the information required is most definitely of public
interest. Commercially sensitive figures might be omitted, but the
substance of the communications should be disclosed. If the Trust
is having discussions it would be embarrassed to have made public,
then the public should be able to decide whether it should be
having those discussions in the first place.
Furthermore, as public entities, the Trust should not have
‘commercial interests’ that it wishes to withhold from the public.
Details of its costs, expenditures, plans and surpluses are matters
of public interest. An NHS Trust is not a profit-making entity (at
least yet!) and should be fully publicly accountable.
A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is
available on the Internet at this address:
15 August 2012
Dear Dpt Ig (DEVON PARTNERSHIP NHS TRUST),
As an addendum to my appeal for review of your decision, please
note that a search on your website
http://www.devonpartnership.nhs.uk/ for ‘consortium’ does not
return a single result. The information is therefore not held on
Moreover, the ‘Meeting the Challenge’ website does not provide
copies of any of the requested communications – I requested copies
of communications, not of press releases.
Your presumption of exemption on the grounds that some of the
information is available through other means is therefore invalid.
Please provide the requested information by return.
The Trust has admitted to having the information, but uses 2 false grounds to dodge the request. Clearly the information must be very incriminating, and if they fail to disclose the information after the appeal, I will complain to the Information Commissioner. This is too big a matter to simply let it drop because they try to wriggle out of it.