Update #3 – Am I being Unreasonable?

Hot on the heels of my earlier update, I was looking to find the info from other sources. I want to share this link far and wide:

https://www.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=47574f7a6e454dc6a42c5f6912ed7076

This only has information for England, I’m afraid. But:

  • The page displays a map. The map allows you to zoom in and out, and move around. A bit like Google.
  • You can also type in your post code. It needs to be the full postcode. AB1 2CD. That will take you to your location on the map.
  • In the top-left corner, there is also an icon, “go to my current location”, if your device supports it.
  • Left-click on the map. A little box pops up.
  • The box contains the location’s MSOA. I had no idea what that is. Middle Super Output Area, apparently. Some kind on unitary authority which I have never heard of, in all my 50-odd years. Looks like it is roughly equivalent to the “wards” we have at election time. So quite detailed. My MSOA covers mine and the next village, better focussed that I thought I could achieve.
  • The other thing this box tells you is the number of confirmed cases this last week. Exactly what I wanted to know. They update the map daily, and so “the last week” just rolls and rolls.

I guess the first thing I need to do is to follow this map, and see whether it agrees with the numbers I trust. The source is the UK Government, same source as my other info, so I’m hopeful. At the same time, I’m aware that the entire UK had 1,000 new cases yesterday. That’s a lot of cases.

If the map is good, however, the prognosis looks good outside of London and Birmingham – our biggest cities. My little area is showing zero cases this last week. Most areas are showing zero.

My main aim of this was to find local data, and I believe I have found that now. Although the hospital have been no help whatever, I’m just gonna drop the FoI request. They could have saved me a lot of time by pointing me here, but I have the result I was looking for.

Update #2: Am I Being Unreasonable?

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.

Next Steps

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.


Update: Am I Being Unreasonable?

I just wanted to write a very brief update on this.

Yes, six weeks later, I had a response today. I wrote to them again, two weeks ago, to remind them that I had not yet received a response. To be honest, I had expected them to stall – if they had wanted to publish the data, if would be public already – so it was no surprise that they were stringing this out.

The hospital’s response was that they could not publish the data because the data does not exist.

Think about that for a minute – a hospital does not know how many COVID tests it is carrying out. It also means that our government has no way of compiling the numbers that it has been presenting since March.

I have to request that they review the decision, before I can take the request to the next body.

I think I have been fobbed off throughout this adventure, what do you think?

What staggers me most of all is that there are people out there who don’t want me to know the local picture.

Mister Bump

As the UK is coming out of lockdown, so too are we – my wife and I. Only slightly – I want to make sure that all the cards are stacked in my favour before resuming my old life.

With that in mind, we had a garden-guest around last week, a friend of my wife. I can’t remember how we got there but the conversation somehow got to post-lockdown behaviour. I said I’d be far more comfortable coming out of the house if I knew there were no cases in our local hospital.

Okay, if there are no cases it does not necessarily mean we are [i.e. the vicinity is] COVID-free, but if we did have enough COVID cases, I’m sure some of them would end up in the hospital, and counted in the statistics.

It so happens that the husband of this friend works up at the hospital. Ah

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Am I Being Unreasonable?

As the UK is coming out of lockdown, so too are we – my wife and I. Only slightly – I want to make sure that all the cards are stacked in my favour before resuming my old life.

With that in mind, we had a garden-guest around last week, a friend of my wife. I can’t remember how we got there but the conversation somehow got to post-lockdown behaviour. I said I’d be far more comfortable coming out of the house if I knew there were no cases in our local hospital.

Okay, if there are no cases it does not necessarily mean we are [i.e. the vicinity is] COVID-free, but if we did have enough COVID cases, I’m sure some of them would end up in the hospital, and counted in the statistics.

It so happens that the husband of this friend works up at the hospital. Ah, the friend says, Rob gets an email every day, telling him exactly how many current COVID cases there are. My response was simply that this kind of information should be in the public domain.

These last few days, therefore, I have spent time poking about on the web, to see if this information is, indeed, available. I couldn’t find it, so I ended up asking the hospital themselves whether they publish numbers.

This morning I received a reply. No, the numbers aren’t published because it might breach patient confidentiality.

Now, I wasn’t asking for names and addresses, just aggregate numbers. So I’m not sure how that could breach anyone’s confidentiality.

My next step? Well, the UK has a Freedom of Information law, and hospitals are public bodies, so I think my likely way forward is to put in one of these requests when I have some time. That is a pain, though, not to mention that the law gives them a month or two to respond to this request. Most likely they will sit on it until, hopefully, the pandemic is over, when this information is useful now.

I can’t help thinking it is a weird state of affairs. All around the world, people are looking for snippets of information to help them make pretty fundamental stop/go decisions, and our public health services are actively witholding this information.

More Thought Required

My wife went for a hospital appointment yesterday, it was something respiratory so, before the appointment, she needed to get a chest x-ray. We got to the appointment and were immediately told to go to another department to get the x-ray.

When we got there, my wife was not on their list. Not even late, but non-existent! So there was a 30 minute wait while they tried to find out what was happening.

In the time we were waiting, three other patients arrived, all with the same story. All patients at this respiritory clinic, none of whom were expected by X-Ray.

So I’d I’d guess my wife and I weren’t just unlucky. I’d guess that this fuckup happens at many clinics, many weeks.

Respiratory and X-Ray appointments normally run hand-in-hand. So, you’d think their IT system would allow then to easily book both appointments at once. Apparently not.

I’ve got a lot of sympathy for the argument that our hospitals are starved of cash, but I don’t think cash is the only answer, there’s often just a basic lack of common sense.

It does make me wonder – I can’t be the only person who notices these flaws, and I’m not Brain of Britain. I wonder how many good people have gone into the NHS, have seen the problems and wanted to do something about them, and just been ground down by the system?