I’m aware this is becoming a chain, so I’ll try to keep this short. No responses in six weeks, then two within a day!
As a very brief recap, I have asked for information such as the number of COVID tests, number of positives, performed by my local hospital. They will not disclose these numbers.
The first response, Tuesday afternoon, I posted about below. I replied immediately (words to the effect) that I did not believe that they did not keep numbers. Partly, this reply was for legal reasons – the FoI Law here requires that my next step was to complain to the hospital itself about the decision, and to ask them to reconsider.
To my surprise, I received another message first thing Wednesday morning. It seemed they did have the information I was looking for (of course they did), but they hinted they had a problem with the timeline that I specified.
I had requested regular updates, nominally weekly, starting asap, until our government declares an end to the pandemic in the UK. Other agencies now release data weekly, so I didn’t think this was unreasonable.
I rather think that they were expecting firm start and end dates, you know, give me the data between 1st August and 31st August. But how can I specify a firm date? How do I know when this will end? At the very end of their response, they seemed to acknowledge that I was requesting a commitment to publish ongoing information, and I can’t help thinking that this is their problem.
So Wednesday morning I fired off a non-legal message. I just wanted to establish whether they would be prepared to release any information as a one-off. To be clear on whether their problem was actually in the ongoing updates of the numbers. I offered to work with them.
I am awaiting their response. It’s entirely likely I will not get one, but I have to give them the chance to respond.
I’ll approach the information agency. I’ve jumped through all the necessary hoops now, so can approach them directly. They say they can adjudicate, although it wouldn’t surprise me if they had no teeth.
I have to be prepared, though, for the FoI agency to side with the hospital. The act seems to be aimed at publication of one-off information, whereas I’m looking for regular updates.
The other option is that I could be a real pain in the ass, and submit a bunch of fresh requests, one per week. It seems daft to submit a cluster of these things, where just one should do, but these things are only emails, after all.
This is so much harder than it needs to be.