Cost of heavily redacting DSAR

James Titcombe made this Freedom of Information request to Nursing and Midwifery Council

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was partially successful.

Dear Nursing and Midwifery Council,

In September 2016, I made a request under the Data Protection Act (PDA) to be provided with my personal data held by the NMC. This request was made following serious concerns relating to the NMC's response to my baby son's death in 2008, the lack of any action for several years and serious concerns about the defensive way the NMC have responded to criticism (including from the PSA).

Following a number of delays, this information was provided on 20th December 2016 via a web portal and also a CD which was posted to my home address. Although I have made similar requests to other organisations in the past, I have never seen information redacted to the extent that the documents provided by the NMC have been redacted. Typically 95-99% of the content of the emails, reports and document provided have been removed, making it virtually impossible to make sense of the data. The scant information that hasn't been redacted is disturbing for reasons that I will be raising separately.

The NMC have clearly gone to extreme lengths to hide as much information as possible from me and I note that the redactions were carried out by Fieldfisher LLP. Under the FOI Act, please can you provide the following:

1) The instructions from the NMC to Fieldfisher LLP regarding redacting the information provided under my DSAR.

2) The total amount paid to Fieldfisher LLP in relation to all activities associated with preparing and responding to this DSAR. For the avoidance of any doubt, I am asking for the total amount (either paid, owed or still to be invoiced) to Fieldfisher LLP relating to the DSAR made my myself in September 2016.

I would be grateful if you could respond to this FOI request in a concise manner and specifically to points 1 and 2 above.

Yours faithfully,

James Titcombe

Foi & Dpa Request, Nursing and Midwifery Council

We acknowledge receipt of your freedom of information/data protection
request.

 

The statutory timeframe for responses are:

 

o Freedom of Information requests - 20 working days;
o Data Protection requests - 40 (calendar) days.

 

If you need the information in an alternative format, we will do all we
reasonably can to help.

 

The Nursing and Midwifery Council is now using the email and file
encryption service - Egress Switch to secure sensitive information.
[1]http://www.egress.com/

 

Thank you.

 

Nursing and Midwifery Council

23 Portland Place London W1B 1PZ

 

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Matthew McClelland, Nursing and Midwifery Council

Dear James

 

I am writing in response to the request you submitted on 30 December 2016
under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA). The statutory response
deadline is 30 January 2017. We hold the information you have requested.

 

I am sorry you do not feel we have been transparent in the way we handled
your data subject access request. As you know we engaged the law firm
Fieldfisher LLP to help us deal with your request and the estimated cost
of their work is £239,871.85 (including VAT). We have the capacity to deal
with most information requests internally. Yours was particularly complex
because it involved a large amount of information relating to fitness to
practise cases over a long period of time and the personal data of many
other parties. That meant that we could not handle it internally. Engaging
the support of our lawyers was the most practical way of handling it and
enabled us to be assured that we are meeting our obligations fully. We
appreciate that your view is that we should have disclosed more
information. To disclose more than we are legally required to do would
most likely have increased costs significantly; for example, we would have
had to have sought consent from many parties to disclose their personal
data, and there would have been no guarantee that they would have
consented.

 

We hold general instructions that we gave Fieldfisher in relation to
advising on and assisting us with your request and limited information
containing specific instructions in relation to redactions. These are
subject to legal advice privilege and exempt from publication under
section 42 FOIA. I appreciate that you will be disappointed by that and I
should like to assure you that we have considered the public interest test
very carefully. We recognise there is a public interest in accountability,
transparency and openness on the part of the NMC in relation to our
engagement of third parties and our instructions to those acting on our
behalf. Disclosure could help you and the public generally to understand
the NMC’s decision-making process and develop trust and confidence in the
NMC’s handling of information requests. On balance, however, we consider
those factors to be outweighed by the significant public interest in
maintaining the principle behind legal professional privilege. As I hope
you will understand, safeguarding openness in communications between a
client and their lawyer is very important. It ensures that clients have
access to full and frank legal advice, which is key to the administration
of justice. Regularly disclosing legal instructions or advice would be a
disincentive to public authorities seeking advice. That could mean that
legal advice sought was more limited and did not address all necessary
issues, leading to poorer quality of public decision-making. We also took
account of the fact that the instructions were issued relatively recently
and that we continue to rely on the advice that we obtained as a result.

 

You do have a right to request a review of the way in which we have
responded to your FOIA request. Further information about how to do that
is set out below.

 

If you would like to discuss anything further with me, please feel free to
get in touch.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Matthew McClelland

Deputy Director

Fitness to Practise
T: 020 7681 5987
M: 07876 546 222

Nursing and Midwifery Council
1st Floor
1 Kemble Street
LONDON
WC2B 4AN
[1]www.nmc-uk.org

 

 

Freedom of Information complaints procedure

 

The NMC is committed to making information available under the FOIA and to
ensuring that the service it provides for those wishing to gain access to
information is simple, efficient and effective.

 

If you feel the service you have received does not meet these aims or your
expectations please write, giving details of your complaint, to
[2]foi&[email address].

 

Your complaint will be fully investigated and treated confidentially by
the NMC. If your complaint is about a response to a request for
information, it will be dealt with by an officer of the NMC who was not
involved in the original decision. An initial response will be made within
5 working days of receipt of the complaint. A full investigation and any
decision will be made and conveyed to you within 20 working days. If the
NMC is unable to deal with your complaint within this time the NMC will
inform you and let you know the reason for the delay.

 

If your complaint is upheld you will be notified of what action will be
taken. If it is a request for information the information will be provided
to you. If the complaint is not upheld you will be given a reason for the
decision. If the NMC does not deal with your complaint to your
satisfaction, you are entitled to refer your complaint to:

 

The Information Commissioner's Office

Wycliffe House

Water Lane

Wilmslow

Cheshire

SK9 5AF

[3]www.ico.org.uk

 

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Dear Nursing and Midwifery Council,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Nursing and Midwifery Council's handling of my FOI request 'Cost of heavily redacting DSAR'.

I was shocked that the NMC instructed a top city law firm to handle a routine request for personal data. Furthermore, the total costs of over £239,000 to do this work seem incompressible. I note that having made similar request for information from other organisation in the past, I have never encountered information as heavily redacted as this before. Data protection experts have advised me that £239,000 is enough to fund the wages of a very experienced data protection officer who would consider this request a routine matter, for several years.

In these circumstances, given this huge some of money has been paid for through the registration fee's of nurses and midwifes, it is now vital that the NMC are fully open, honest and transparent about the scope of work that led to this cost and the justification for the approach taken.

For these reasons, I believe that the public interest in disclosing the full instructions and all communications between the NMC and Fieldfisher relating to this work, far outweigh any argument regarding legal privilege. Please review this decision urgently so that I can take the appropriate next steps.

Under the FoI Act, please can you also provide the following additional information.

1) A copy of relevant NMC procedures relating to the procurement of external legal service of this value.
2) A copy of NMC's financial authorisation procedure relating to work of this value (£239,000).
3) Confirmation that all appropriate procedures, including where applicable Board, financial director and Chair approval, were followed relating to the instruction of this work.
4) A copy of all internal emails or documents which discuss the instruction of and any other aspects of this work. Please ensure this includes communications between the Chief Executive, Chair, Financial Director, Board and any other NMC executives/directors.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/c...

Yours faithfully,

James Titcombe

Foi & Dpa Request, Nursing and Midwifery Council

We acknowledge receipt of your freedom of information/data protection
request.

 

The statutory timeframe for responses are:

 

o Freedom of Information requests - 20 working days;
o Data Protection requests - 40 (calendar) days.

 

If you need the information in an alternative format, we will do all we
reasonably can to help.

 

The Nursing and Midwifery Council is now using the email and file
encryption service - Egress Switch to secure sensitive information.
[1]http://www.egress.com/

 

Thank you.

 

Nursing and Midwifery Council

23 Portland Place London W1B 1PZ

 

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Clementine Adewunmi, Nursing and Midwifery Council

4 Attachments

Dear Mr Titcombe,

 

Please see attached the response to your Freedom of Information Request.

 

 

Thank you

Yours sincerely,

Clementine Adewunmi

Records and Archives Manager

Technology and Business Innovation (TBI)

020 7681 5309

020 7637 7181 (switchboard)

 

Nursing and Midwifery Council

23 Portland Place

London W1B 1PZ

[1]www.nmc.org.uk

 

[2]cid:image001.png@01CF5EF8.AF3AF250

 

 

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Clementine Adewunmi, Nursing and Midwifery Council

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Titcombe

Please see attached the response to your FOI internal review request.

 

Thank you

Yours sincerely,

Clementine Adewunmi

Records and Archives Manager

Technology and Business Innovation (TBI)

020 7681 5309

020 7637 7181 (switchboard)

 

Nursing and Midwifery Council

23 Portland Place

London W1B 1PZ

[1]www.nmc.org.uk

 

[2]cid:image001.png@01CF5EF8.AF3AF250

 

 

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