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Kept in the Dark: NHS England believes gossip and secrecy more important than public safety and transparency

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We originally wrote to NHS England in September 2014 – more than seven months ago.

Firstly, we wanted to discover what the chief architect of the radical redesign and Operations Director (Norfolk) of Norfolk & Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) was doing after Michael Scott emailed staff announcing her promotion to work for Geraldine Strathdee, National Clinical Director for mental health at NHS England. We were interested in the idea of her repeating at a national level what she achieved at NSFT.

Secondly, we wanted to understand why NHS England had inexplicably abandoned its Quality Surveillance of NSFT and what it had been ‘surveilling’. People who rely on mental health services, staff and the public knew nothing about this ‘enhanced surveillance’ by the East Anglia Quality Surveillance Group. We only found out the Quality Surveillance by chance when it was mentioned in a comprehensive response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request from one of the few reasonably open parts of the NHS bureaucracy, the Care Quality Commission (CQC). We sent our request to the CQC because NSFT was claiming that its forthcoming CQC inspection was routine and random: the response told us the opposite. NSFT truly is the untrustworthy trust.

Where are we now, seven months on?

Despite Michael Scott’s misleading email, we know that Kathy Chapman does not work for Geraldine Strathdee at NHS England. We checked with the Department of Health, Public Health England and Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust (the trust for which Geraldine Strathdee works) and Kathy Chapman doesn’t work for them either. It now appears that Kathy Chapman is “working for the NHS Confederation” though she appears to spend a lot of time at home. It has proved impossible for us, and for others through more official channels, to discover what ‘important work’ Kathy Chapman is doing. Kathy Chapman apparently remains on the NSFT payroll on a six-figure salary and is due to return from secondment this summer – a return which would be disastrous for staff morale and public confidence in NSFT.

We still do not know why NHS England abandoned its Quality Surveillance, which appears inexplicable given NSFT’s subsequent “Inadequate” CQC Inspection and Monitor’s decision to place NSFT into Special Measures. NHS England seems to put the so-called “confidence” of other publicly-funded NHS bodies above public accountability and safety. We need to know why the NHS bureaucracy failed those who rely on mental health services so badly.

We still don’t have an answer from NHS England to our appeal. NSFT is delaying sending the findings of its appeal panel, which met four weeks ago, until the day after the general election: an act of flagrant political bias.

If NHS England can’t put transparency and patient safety first, is it fit for purpose?

Read the emails for yourself below:

From: NorfolkSuffolk MentalHealthCrisis
Sent: 12 September 2014 13:07
To: Contactus England (HEALTH AND SOCIAL CARE INFORMATION CENTRE)
Subject: 323199 – FOI request

Sir/Madam,

Please supply us with the following:

  1. The job description and other documentation relating to the post of Programme Manager for the Mental Health working for Geraldine Strathdee, National Clinical Director for mental health;
  2. Minutes and other documentation relating to the enhanced surveillance of Norfolk & Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) by the East Anglia Quality Surveillance Group;
  3. Copies of written and electronic correspondence between NHS England and NSFT in 2014 (for electronic comms a simple search for emails sent to @nsft.nhs.uk should suffice). We do not require copies of bulletins/mass mailings sent to all trusts.

To minimise cost and inconvenience, we are very happy for you to supply this information to this email address in electronic form.

Thank you in advance for your help. If you have any questions, please get in touch.

From: “Contactus England (HEALTH AND SOCIAL CARE INFORMATION CENTRE)” <england.contactus@nhs.net>
To: NorfolkSuffolk MentalHealthCrisis
Date: Fri, 12 Sep 2014 14:02:40 +0100
Subject: RE: FOI request SDR 323199SB

Our reference: SDR 323199 – Acknowledgement

Thank you for your Freedom of Information (FOI) request dated 12th September 2014.

Please be assured that your request is being dealt with under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and will be answered within twenty working days.

If you have any queries about this request or wish to contact us again, please email england.contactus@nhs.net and the message will be forwarded appropriately. Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.

Yours sincerely,

From: “FOI England (NHS ENGLAND)” <england.foi@nhs.net>
To: norfolksuffolkcrisis
Date: Fri, 10 Oct 2014 09:05:38 +0100
Subject: Freedom of Information – Request for Clarification (Our Ref: SDR-323199)

Thank you for your Freedom of Information (FOI) request dated 12 September 2014.

NHS England may hold information relevant to your request.  However, our policy team have asked for some further refinement of your request.

Under Section 1(3) of the FOI Act, an authority is not obliged to comply with an FOI request when it reasonably requires further information in order to identify and locate the information requested.

With this in mind,

  • For Question 2, can you please specify a timescale for which you require us to search – e.g. do you want documents from 2013, 2014?
  • For Question 3, do you have any specific teams, directorates you wish to search for information – please bear in mind that NHS England employs over 6,000 people, and to ask each person to search their emails and archives for correspondence relating to your request would be a massive task, likely taking you over the 18 hour time limit determined by the FOI Act.

Please be assured we are keen to assist with your request. However, I cannot guarantee that Section 12 or any other exemptions under the FOI act will not apply to any further information requested.

Please send your clarified request to england.contactus@nhs.net quoting your reference number as it appears in the subject bar.

Kind regards,

Date: Fri, 10 Oct 2014 13:17:10 +0100
Subject: Re: Freedom of Information – Request for Clarification (Our Ref: SDR-323199)
From: NorfolkSuffolk MentalHealthCrisis
To: “FOI England (NHS ENGLAND)”

For question two, we believe the team was led by Andrew Reed of the East Anglia Area Team. 2013 & 2014 will suffice.
For question three, is it not possible to identify those responsible for the monitoring of NSFT in 2013 and 2014 in East Anglia Area Team and the Mental Health services people (i.e. Geraldine Strathdee and those working with her) and search their emails for nsft.nhs.uk or the previous email which was nwmhft.nhs.uk? I am sure Andrew Reed would know who is responsible.
If this is not possible, we will have to reframe.

Thanks in advance. Many thanks for coming back to us for clarification.

From: “FOI England (NHS ENGLAND)” <england.foi@nhs.net>
To: norfolksuffolkcrisis
Date: Mon, 22 Sep 2014 11:22:07 +0100
Subject: Freedom of Information – Request for Clarification (Our Ref: SDR-323199)
Our reference: SDR- 323199 – Request for Clarification Thank you for your Freedom of Information (FOI) request dated 12 September 2014.NHS England may hold information relevant to your request.  However, we are unable to begin processing your request without further clarification.Under Section 1(3) of the FOI Act, an authority is not obliged to comply with an FOI request when it reasonably requires further information in order to identify and locate the information requested.With this in mind, can you please clarify the following regarding Question 1 specifically:Please can you provide more information regarding the programme manager role. Geraldine Strathdee does not have any NHS England staff who report directly to her. There are a number of staff who work on the parity of esteem programme and this request could be of relevance to a number if posts.  In order for the right information to be provided we do require further information. To help us identify the post you are referring to, can you please tell us:

  • Has this Post been recently advertised?
  • Are you able to provide any additional information regarding the areas of work this individual is responsible for?
  • The more information we can have about the post the better. If you have met the post holder or have any other information that would be really helpful.

Please be assured we are keen to assist with your request. However, I cannot guarantee that Section 12 or any other exemptions under the FOI act will not apply to any further information requested.

Please send your clarified request to england.contactus@nhs.net quoting your reference number as it appears in the subject bar.

Date: Fri, 3 Oct 2014 11:38:44 +0100
Subject: Re: Freedom of Information – Request for Clarification (Our Ref: SDR-323199)
From: NorfolkSuffolk MentalHealthCrisis
To: “FOI England (NHS ENGLAND)” <england.foi@nhs.net>

Sorry for the delay. Here is the Norfolk & Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust release about the post:

“Dear Colleagues

I am writing to tell you of some important changes at Executive Director level

Kathy Chapman is to undertake a one year secondment to work with Geraldine Strathdee, the National Clinical Director for mental health. This is an exciting and prestigious opportunity for Kathy which will also support important work in NSFT. Kathy will start as Programme Manager for the Mental Health programme on 28th July.

In Kathy’s absence, I will be asking for applications, to cover the Director of Operations Norfolk and Waveney post. The post will be filled on a fixed term 12 month basis.  Expressions of interest will be invited from individuals  holding substantive Band 9 posts in the first instance.

At the same time, Debbie White will conclude her secondment to Suffolk and return to Norfolk at the end of July.  I will therefore also begin a process for the appointment of Operations Director, Suffolk. This will be a substantive appointment and details of the selection process will be announced in due course.  In order to ensure that the progress made by Debbie and the Senior team continues a short term interim appointment will be made .

I am sure you will all join me in thanking both Kathy and Debbie for their hard work in these posts.

Michael Scott

Chief Executive”

From: “FOI England (NHS ENGLAND)” <england.foi@nhs.net>
To: norfolksuffolkcrisis
Date: Thu, 13 Nov 2014 12:51:29 +0000
Subject: Freedom of Information – Response (Our Ref: SDR-323199)

Re:      Freedom of Information request (Our Ref: SDR-323199)

Thank you for your Freedom of Information (FOI) request dated 12 September 2014 and your subsequent clarification received 3 October 2014. Please accept our apologies for the delay in responding to this request.

Your exact request was:-

“1. The job description and other documentation relating to the post of Programme Manager for the Mental Health working for Geraldine Strathdee, National Clinical Director for mental health;

  1. Minutes and other documentation relating to the enhanced surveillance of Norfolk & Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) by the East Anglia Quality Surveillance Group;
  2. Copies of written and electronic correspondence between NHS England and NSFT in 2014 (for electronic comms a simple search for emails sent to @nsft.nhs.uk should suffice). We do not require copies of bulletins/mass mailings sent to all trusts.”

NHS England holds some information relevant to your request.

In response to Question 1, NHS England does not hold this information. This post does not exist within NHS England, and the post-holder is not employed by NHS England.

In response to Question 2, NHS England holds information relevant to your request.

However, this information is exempt from disclosure by virtue of Section 41 of the FOI Act provides for the protection of information provided in confidence. Section 41 prohibits a public body from disclosing information obtained from any other person if the disclosure of this information to the public would constitute a breach of confidence actionable by that or any other person.

With regards to Section 41 of the FOI Act, although NHS England is the secretariat organisation of Quality Surveillance Group (QSG) meetings, these also involve members of other organisations who all sign confidentiality agreements prior to the meeting, with the expectation that any views or opinions shared are done so in confidence and would not be disclosable to the wider public. QSG meetings are an opportunity for organisations to share soft intelligence which can include speculative concerns and to disclose this information would constitute a breach of confidence. To disclose the information may also inhibit the free and frank discussion of such concerns at any future meetings.

In response to Question 3, we can confirm that NHS England does not hold any information in relation to your request.

I hope this information is helpful. However, if you are dissatisfied, you have the right to ask for an internal review by writing to us, within two months of the date of this letter, to:

NHS England

PO Box 16738

REDDITCH

B97 9PT

Email: england.contactus@nhs.net

Please quote the reference number SDR-323199 in any future communications.

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) can be contacted at:

The Information Commissioner’s Office

Wycliffe House

Water Lane

Wilmslow

Cheshire

K9 5AF

Telephone: 0303 123 1113

Email: casework@ico.gsi.gov.uk

Website: www.ico.gov.uk

Please note there is no charge for making an appeal.

Please be aware that in line with the Information Commissioner’s directive on the disclosure of information under the FOI Act, your request will be anonymised and published on our website as part of our disclosure log.

Please do not reply directly to this email. This message has been sent from a central mailbox and incoming messages will not be received.

Yours sincerely,

Date: Tue, 6 Jan 2015 12:03:02 +0000
Subject: SDR-323199
From: NorfolkSuffolk MentalHealthCrisis
To: england.contactus@nhs.net

Dear Sir/Madam,
1. Thank you for your email of 13 November 2014. Referring to your response to Question 2, the Campaign does not accept the reasons you have given for failing to provide the information requested.
2. An exemption under section 41 is not engaged unless the public interest in maintaining it is greater than the public interest in disclosing it. The public interest for disclosure is these formal meetings of the EA Quality Surveillance Group relate to the safety monitoring of public health services provided by the NSFT which are currently of great concern to the our Campaign, the media, Monitor and the CQC.

3. In particular the public have the right to know why the NFST was under surveillance in the first place and why that surveillance discontinued in the summer of 2014, to be reinstated effectively by Monitor in December of the same year.

4. Noting your reasons however, we would be satisfied to receive an accurate summary of the meetings, the dates on which they were held, the organisations represented and broad headings of what was discussed and the decisions taken. It is not necessary to attribute comments to individuals and this modified FOI request should address your concerns.

5. If there is disclosed one document which fully explains those matters referred to in paragraph 3, the Campaign would consider that it had received sufficient disclosure in response to its request.

6. By way of comment, the Campaign questions the propriety of NHS England promising – prior to the meetings taking place – to hold meeting minutes confidentially as this conflicts with the general requirements for transparency and accountability of public bodies and the recommendations of the Francis Report.

Yours faithfully.

Date: Wed, 25 Mar 2015 10:28:17 +0000
Subject: Re: SDR-323199
From: NorfolkSuffolk MentalHealthCrisis
To: england.contactus@nhs.net

We sent this appeal nearly three months ago but with no response.
This is unacceptable.

Please confirm receipt and let us know when we can expect a response to our appeal.

Regards.
From: “FOI England (NHS ENGLAND)” <england.foi@nhs.net>
To: norfolksuffolkcrisis
Date: Wed, 25 Mar 2015 16:36:14 +0000
Subject: Freedom of Information – Internal Review Acknowledgement (Our Ref: SDR-323199)

Re:      Internal review request (Our Ref: SDR-323199)

Please accept our sincere apologies for not responding to your email of 6 January 2015, where you requested an internal Review. Please see this email as acknowledgement of your Internal Review request.

We endeavour to respond to Internal Reviews within 20 working days. However, please be aware that on some occasions this has been extended to 40 working days. An officer will be allocated to handle your Internal Review and will update you accordingly where necessary.

If you wish to discuss this case any further please do not hesitate to write to us again on the following details, including your reference number SDR-323199.

Please do not reply to this email. This message has been sent from a central mailbox. To communicate with NHS England regarding Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, enquiries or complaints we ask these are sent directly to NHS England’s customer contact centre. This is to ensure all communications are progressed correctly. Their postal address, telephone number and email details are as follows:- PO Box 16738, Redditch, B97 9PT; 0300 3 11 22 33, england.contactus@nhs.net.

Yours sincerely,

Date: Wed, 25 Mar 2015 17:40:40 +0000
Subject: Fwd: Freedom of Information – Internal Review Acknowledgement (Our Ref: SDR-323199)
From: NorfolkSuffolk MentalHealthCrisis
To: england.contactus@nhs.net
NHS England has ignored the request for an appeal for nearly three calendar months  Please consider this email a formal complaint about your handling of this matter.

If you do not expedite this matter and respond to our appeal within seven working days we will make a formal complaint to the Information Commissioner. Waiting for four or five months for a response to an appeal is ridiculous and insulting. Having failed in this matter, NHS England should respond with a sense of genuine urgency.

Please confirm receipt and supply an email address so that we can correspond with you directly given that the england.contactus@nhs.net route has been shown to be so unreliable.

From: “FOI England (NHS ENGLAND)” <england.foi@nhs.net>
To: norfolksuffolkcrisis
Date: Fri, 27 Mar 2015 13:53:33 +0000
Subject: Freedom of Information – Internal review complaint (Our Ref: SDR-323199)

Please accept my apologies for the delays in handling this case. NHS England is actively working on bringing this to an internal review panel meeting and we will provide you with a response as soon as possible. I am unable to guarantee a response within the next seven working days. However, we will provide you with an update following the panel meeting in case there are further actions which arise and if this will cause further time in providing you a response.

I understand the frustrations this delay has caused and I hope this email provides assurance we are handling the review and will respond as quickly as possible. Please be aware that the internal review is a review of the case handling and its response which includes a review of timeliness in the response and to the internal review. I am aware you would like us to take forward your communication below, of 26 March 2015 as a formal complaint.

You can submit your complaint in writing to PO Box 16738, Redditch, B97 9PT or england.contactus@nhs.net or verbally by calling 0300 3 11 22 33. When making your complaint it is helpful to provide specific details of

–       What you are unhappy with

–       Why you are unhappy with this

–       What outcome you are seeking as a result of making your complaint

It is also helpful to provide dates, times and names where appropriate. Your complaint will be dealt with in line with the NHS Complaints Process and you will receive an acknowledgement in three working days. NHS England aims to respond to all complaints within 40 working days.

I hope this email is helpful. If you choose to bring this to the attention of the Information Commissioner we will continue to progress the internal review and await any further instruction from the Commissioner in due course.

Yours sincerely,

Date: Thu, 23 Apr 2015 11:37:11 +0100
Subject: Fwd: Freedom of Information – Internal review complaint (Our Ref: SDR-323199)
From: NorfolkSuffolk MentalHealthCrisis
To: england.contactus@nhs.net

Is it really still possible that we have received no response to this?
Please update us as to when this panel met or is to meet and when we can expect a response.
This delay is completely unacceptable and discourteous.

From: “FOI England (NHS ENGLAND)” <england.foi@nhs.net>
To: norfolksuffolkcrisis
Date: Fri, 24 Apr 2015 16:11:05 +0100
Subject: Freedom of Information – Acknowledgement (Our Ref: SDR-323199)

I am sorry that the response to your internal review request is taking longer to complete than our standard and the understandable frustration this may be causing you.

Further to your initial Internal Review request, the panel convened on 8 April 2015 and we hope to be able to provide you with the panel’s full findings on Friday 8 May 2015.

Although there is no statutory deadline for internal review requests, NHS England endeavours to respond to internal review requests within 20 working days of receipt. More complex reviews may be extended up to 40 working days and in exceptional cases these unfortunately can take longer to complete.

Please accept our apologies once again for the delay in the completion of this process.

Yours sincerely,

Date: Fri, 24 Apr 2015 16:36:04 +0100
Subject: Re: Freedom of Information – Acknowledgement (Our Ref: SDR-323199)
From: NorfolkSuffolk MentalHealthCrisis
To: “FOI England (NHS ENGLAND)” <england.foi@nhs.net>, england.contactus@nhs.net

How can it possibly take an entire calendar month for you to send the decision of a panel?
That is astonishing, isn’t it? This isn’t a rhetorical question: we’d like an answer.
Is it a coincidence that you intend to wait until after the election to send us a response?  This appears to be political bias during the election period.  Freedom of Information business should be unimpeded. That is right, isn’t it?  This isn’t a rhetorical question: we’d like an answer.
This situation has been going on for months and months and months.  Please can you explain the delay?  This isn’t a rhetorical question: we’d like an answer.
Your inability to provide a dedicated email for correspondence is inconvenient, discourteous and unreliable given your ‘losing’ our appeal. Why do you do this?  This isn’t a rhetorical question: we’d like an answer.
Please respond promptly.
Of course, we haven’t had a response.
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One thought on “Kept in the Dark: NHS England believes gossip and secrecy more important than public safety and transparency

  1. Backstreet Bob says:

    Let’s be honest here, you’re never going to get the truth out of these people because for them to admit the truth would expose the essential facts that all this complex bureaucracy is designed to obfuscate.

    The fact is this, the government is out of money, the NHS system is collapsing and all the complex reorganisation, reprovisioning and restructuring has only added to the speed of the decline. Providing a quality mental health service is costly and there is no will to bear this cost, there will only be a series of pathetic excuses from puppets like Lamb to provide some kind of fig-leaf over what is in fact a betrayal of the people that these ‘politicians’ are meant to protect.

    The campaign are doing a very good job at exposing this truth but do not expect anyone in real power to acknowledge the problem exists, they offer only talk.

    Reply

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