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Polyclinics, walk-in centres and freedom of information in Hull

How many walk-in centres are there are in Hull? Don’t ask Hull PCT – they don’t know.

By Steve Nowottny

How many walk-in centres are there are in Hull? Don't ask Hull PCT – they don't know.

No, seriously. It wasn't a trick question. In fact, it was part of a Freedom of Information request Pulse recently submitted to every PCT in the country, looking at how the new wave of polyclinics will impact on existing services.

And Hull PCT's response?

I refer to my acknowledgement letter of 24.6.08 and regret to inform you that, on investigation, the PCT does not hold the following information...

The PCT goes on to list all the questions Pulse asked - such as what services is the PCT procuring as part of the Darzi plans, does it run a walk-in centre and is it planning further polyclinics?

It continues:

It is not, therefore, possible to provide the information requested.

(I will continue to look for this information as some may be held with a member of staff who is currently unavailable and will provide you with any information that I am able to recover. Apologies for any inconvenience this may cause).

Pulse regularly sends out such FOI requests. The poor souls tasked with answering them may not thank us for it, but with hundreds of PCOs and hospital trusts across the country each doing their own thing, it's one of the best ways to stay on top of what's happening on the ground.

Public bodies have 20 working days to answer an FOI request, and a long list of get-out clauses for information which, for example, is intended for future publication or contains personal data.

Many argue these get out clauses are too sweeping, and unequally applied. A recent request for practice funding figures, for example, was answered by about half of those contacted – and rejected by half on grounds of commercial confidentiality.

And at this year's LMCs conference, GPs unanimously voted for a motion calling on PCOs to be covered by an ‘amended Freedom of Information Act so that they cannot hide behind the claim of commercial confidentiality'.

But now, it seems, if all else fails the powers-that-be can just plead ignorance. And completely give up on answering the question at all.

Pulse Team Blog

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