Kept in the Dark: NSFT blocks our appeal against refusal to release the Alexander Report

Whitewash The Alexander Report cropped

Yet again, the Chair of Norfolk & Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), Gary Page, demonstrates that NSFT is incapable of genuine transparency, as he tries to hide the devastating impact of its calamitous radical redesign and refuses our appeal for the Alexander Report to be published. Of course, we haven’t received any response to the additional clarification FOIs we submitted with our appeal despite the expiry of the statutory deadline.

Now, we are forced to ask to the Information Commissioner to compel NSFT to release a document of vital public interest given the crisis in mental health services.

At a recent Board meeting, the NSFT Chair smiled, welcomed us and said over coffee how pleased he was that campaigners were in attendance. Subsequently, the NSFT Chair introduced rules to stop us asking questions until any debate is over and all the decisions have been made. Now, Gary Page has announced that all questions must be submitted in writing in advance to him, the Chair. Often, many Board papers aren’t distributed until just before the meeting, sometimes on the day: if a matter arises or a bad decision is made, it cannot be challenged. No wonder Gary Page rose so high as a merchant banker.

We’d say NSFT has a track record of making quite a lot of bad decisions. You’d think NSFT would value feedback from its staff, service users and carers. It appears NSFT only values advice if the cost is £60,000 and the consultancy is provided by a firm of which the former NSFT Chair, Maggie Wheeler, is an Associate.

You can download Gary Page’s refusal letter as a pdf here.

The text is reproduced below:

Dear Sir or Madam

Thank you for your email where you requested information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 relating to a document entitled “Understanding the Impact of TSS on Staff working in the Central Adult Service Line”.

Following your request, I have now conducted a review of the process and of all of the available evidence. I also confirm that I had not had any involvement in the consideration of your original request and the decision not to release the information.

The decision not to supply the information is upheld for the following reasons:

– Staff contributed to the report on the explicit understanding that the Report would remain confidential. To publish the Report would run the risk that in future staff would be less willing to contribute to such investigations. I therefore agree that the information requested is exempt from disclosure under Section 36(2) (b) (I) and 36(2) (b) (II) of the Freedom of Information Act.

– Upon review of the information requested and having consideration to the public interest points you raise, I consider that the potential prejudice caused by releasing the report outweighs the public interest issue as to release the report would have the potential consequence of staff feeling unable to provide the Trust with frank advice and views for the purposes of deliberation in the future.

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 can be contacted at: Information Commissioners Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF.

Yours faithfully

Gary Page Chair

We will, of course, be appealing to the Information Commissioner.

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