Shapps reports Hertfordshire PCT over Freedom of Information delay

THE body that oversees healthcare in Times Territory has been reported for failing to respond to Freedom of Information requests for more than six months.

Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps has made a formal complaint to the Information Commissioner having struggled to get answers out of the county’s primary care trust (PCT).

He put in an FOI request on April 8 asking how much it cost the health authority to rebrand to NHS East and North Hertfordshire and NHS West Hertfordshire.

By law, organisations have to give the information within 20 working days.

But Mr Shapps said he heard nothing until October, when the PCT emailed to apologise for not responding – blaming an administrative error – and asking if he still wanted an answer.

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He said: “We asked for the information in April and here we are now only just receiving the information at Christmas. It’s an awfully long time.

“It’s a case the Information Commissioner needs to know about and I look forward to his response.”

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Mr Shapps added he had now received an answer to his question, that there was no cost involved in the rebranding.

A PCT spokeswoman told the WHT the adminstrative problem came to light in October.

She said: “The issue related to a new email account, which was set up to work alongside our existing system of receiving requests.

“Unfortunately due to an administrative oversight, from October 2008 until October 2009, emails sent to this address were not picked up and answered.

“As soon as this error was discovered we immediately contacted everyone who had made a FOI enquiry through this route to apologise for our mistake and to answer their request.”

The spokeswoman said the PCT would “be happy” to explain to the Information Commissioner how the problem occurred, and the steps taken to rectify it.

“Processes are now in place to prevent such a situation recurring and are working smoothly,” she added.

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