Our decision to publish the chain of emails between our campaign and Norfolk & Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) finally forced a response from Michael Scott, the £175,000 per year Chief Executive of NSFT, on 30th April 2015. We submitted our original FOI request in December 2014. NSFT is supposed to respond in 20 days.
Michael Scott acknowledges that NSFT does have the report we seek, “Understanding the Impact of Trust Service Strategy on staff working in the Central Adult Service Line”. We believe the report, also known as The Alexander Report, details the catastrophic impact of the radical redesign on mental health services. However, Scott claims that releasing the report:
“would or would be likely to inhibit:
i. the free and frank provision of advice, or
ii. the free and frank provision exchange [sic] of views for the purpose of deliberation”
“Having considered the public interest, the Trust has reached the conclusion that the public interest balance lies in favour of maintaining the exemption and withholding the information.”
Michael Scott appears to believe that the self-serving protection of the personal reputations and lucrative jobs of the NSFT Board of Directors and the clinical and operational management involved in the imposition of the disastrous radical redesign is more important than staff well-being, safeguarding public money, transparency and public accountability which are essential components of the delivery of safe and high quality mental health services.
Here is what Robert Francis QC had to say about Mid Staffs:
“This is a story of appalling and unnecessary suffering of hundreds of people.
“They were failed by a system which ignored the warning signs and put corporate self-interest and cost control ahead of patients and their safety.”
He said the public’s trust in the NHS had been “betrayed” and a change of culture was needed to “make sure that patients come first”.
Michael Scott expects us to be content with NSFT’s official history of the radical redesign, which can be summarized as “Some people, some of whom have left, may have made some unspecified mistakes which have been exaggerated.”
Frankly, this will not do.
You can read Michael Scott’s letter in full here.
Below is our response which was submitted today.
We will not rest until the truth is out.
By email to:
Michael Scott, Chief Executive
Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, Trust Management, 1st Floor Admin Block, Hellesdon Hospital, Drayton High Road, Hellesdon NR6 5BE
[redacted], FOI Administrator
Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, Compliance Team, Kestral House, Hellesdon Hospital, Drayton High Road, NR6 5BE
13th May 2015
Dear Mr. Scott,
We acknowledge receipt on 30th April 2015 of your undated letter responding to the Campaign’s email request of 16/12/14 and 25/02/15 for sight of a document we now know is called “Understanding the Impact of Trust Service Strategy on staff working in the Central Adult Service Line“ (“the Report”).
We do not accept your conclusion that disclosure would inhibit the provision of advice nor the frank exchange of views for the purpose of deliberation. We understood that the purpose of the Report was to identify and thereby understand what was going on in terms of the impact on staff and on the delivery of services. We are not aware that advice is being sought nor provided. If that is so, please accept a further FOI request to give details from whom advice is being sought and the time frames for receiving it. Nor were we aware that there is any process of deliberation currently being carried out pursuant to the Report. If that is so, please accept a further FOI request for details, when it began and when it ended or is expected to end.
We firmly believe that it is in the public interest to disseminate the impact of the Trust Service Strategy. This will inform future decision making around the provision of services, patient safety and staff engagement. We understand that the staff who participated in the survey did so anonymously and that there is no way to trace the responses to individuals. In those circumstances the disclosure of the Report is not likely to inhibit those taking part in future reviews. Participants are more likely to be discouraged from further participation if they feel that reports are buried and no action taken upon them.
However if it the position that the participants were informed that the information they provided would not be disseminated nor published (even as anonymized data) please under FOI provide (i) the document which was given to the participants stating this and (ii) how long you intend to treat this information as confidential.
By this letter the Campaign requests an internal review which we expect to be completed within 20 working days of today’s date. This deadline is very important in view of your failure to deal with our original request of 16 December 2014 (which apparently you did not receive) and that the start date was set back to 25th February 2015 (the date of our chasing email). Even taking the later of these dates, your reply received on 30th April exceeded the deadline by 26 working days. As you have sought to rely section 36, you should have informed the requester/Campaign within 20 days of 25th February that section 36 is engaged and that the Trust were intending to extend the time limit. This was not done and according to your record of the qualified person’s opinion which accompanied your response, the date on which the opinion was sought was 27th March. A further month then elapsed before this was completed and then communicated to us.
In these circumstances and in order to progress this matter in a timely manner (bearing in mind the importance of the Report on patient safety) we will treat a failure to provide us with the outcome of the internal review within 20 working days of receipt of this letter/email i.e. on or before the 11th June 2015 as a failure to hold an internal review and we will draw that to the attention of the Information Commissioner.