Register of payments from pharmaceutical companies to staff

Jonathan Mendel made this Freedom of Information request to University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust

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 successful.

Dear University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust,

Hospital trusts are reportedly meant to keep a register of payments from pharmaceutical companies (and other relevant companies) to staff, in case of conflicts of interest [1]. I am requesting a copy of the register for this Trust - which I would hope includes details of all relevant payments to staff and any related potential conflicts of interest. If it would be possible to have this information in an appropriate structured data format - for example, a CSV file - this would be helpful. If this Trust does not have a complete register, I would request: the release of the information on this topic that the Trust does hold; and an explanation of why the Trust does not hold a complete register.

I am aware that some would view data on pharmaceutical funding as personal data for those staff receiving the funding. Even if some of the information on this register may be classed as personal data (although this is contestable - for example, in some sectors of academia information re funding sources is made public as a matter of course) it would be covered by paragraph 6 of Schedule 2 of the Data Protection Act. The release of these data is "necessary for the purposes of legitimate interests pursued by the data controller or by the third party or parties to whom the data are disclosed" [2]. Spurling et al's systematic review of how information from pharmaceutical companies impacts physicians' prescribing reported that, of the studies included which looked at total promotional investment, three "found that total promotional investment was positively associated with prescribing frequency...Two...found both positive results and no association...One study did not detect an association" [3]. There is thus a legitimate interest in releasing this register: the available research suggests that it is plausible that payments received influence how public money is spent and the type of care provided to members of the public.

For the reasons given above, there is a strong public interest in releasing this information. While "requests for the personal data of a third party are exempt under section 40(2) of the Freedom of Information Act...if disclosure would contravene section 10 of the Data Protection Act, the right to prevent processing likely to cause damage or distress" [2], I would argue that, even if some of those named in these documents feel that their release would cause them damage or distress, this is outweighed by the significant public interest served by releasing these data.

Yours Faithfully,

Dr Jonathan Mendel

[1] http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/a...
[2] http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/info...
[3] http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info...

Freedom Of Info, University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust

Dear Mr Mendel

Thank you for your request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

We will respond within 20 working days.

Yours sincerley

Sarah da Silva
Legal Services
0117 34 23752

University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, Trust Headquarters, Marlborough Street, Bristol, BS1 3NU

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Da Silva, Sarah, University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Mendel

Thank you for your recent Freedom of Information request to University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust.

On behalf of the Trust I attach our response.

Yours sincerley

Sarah da Silva
Legal Services
0117 34 23752

University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, Trust Headquarters, Marlborough Street, Bristol, BS1 3NU

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Jonathan Mendel

Dear University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust,

Thanks for your response to my FOI request. Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of the Trust's handling of my FOI request 'Register of payments from pharmaceutical companies to staff'.

Staff names are absent from the information released. Even if staff names may be classed as personal data (as defined by the Data Protection Act) they would be covered by paragraph 6 of Schedule 2 of the Data Protection Act. The release of these data is "necessary for the purposes of legitimate interests pursued by the data controller or by the third party or parties to whom the data are disclosed" [1]. Spurling et al's systematic review of how information from pharmaceutical companies impacts physicians' prescribing reported that, of the studies included which looked at total promotional investment, three "found that total promotional investment was positively associated with prescribing frequency...Two...found both positive results and no association...One study did not detect an association" [2]. There is thus a legitimate interest in releasing this register: the available research suggests that it is plausible that payments received influence how substantial amounts of public money is spent and the type of care provided to members of the public. Making these data public will open up further opportunities for academic and journalistic research on the impacts of payments and hospitality. It is important to include the names of those declaring interests: among other benefits, this will allow more effective scrutiny of Conflicts of Interest and could allow more extensive analysis: for example, it has been suggested that one could compare declarations on these registers with Conflict of Interest statements on open access pubmed papers.

For the reasons given above, there is a strong public interest in releasing these data in full. While "requests for the personal data of a third party are exempt under section 40(2) of the Freedom of Information Act...if disclosure would contravene section 10 of the Data Protection Act, the right to prevent processing likely to cause damage or distress" [1] I would argue that, even if some of those named in these documents feel that their release would cause them damage or distress, this is outweighed by the significant public interest served by releasing these data.

Yours Faithfully,

Dr Jonathan Mendel

[1]
http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/info...
[2]
http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info...

Wilkins, Mark, University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust

1 Attachment

Dear Sir,

Re your Freedom of Information request (original response from the Trust attached). The Trust Secretary has reviewed your request and will be releasing the data to you shortly.

Kind Regards

Mark Wilkins
Assistant Information Manager
Tel: 0117 34 23752
Legal Department THQ
University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, Trust Headquarters, Marlborough Street, Bristol
BS1 3NU
Email: [email address]

http://www.uhbristol.nhs.uk/

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Wilkins, Mark, University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust

1 Attachment

Dear Sir,

Re; The Trust's Internal Review of your Freedom of Information Request:

Thank you for your request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

On behalf of University Hospitals Bristol I attach our response.

Mark Wilkins
Assistant Information Manager
Tel: 0117 34 23752
Legal Department THQ
University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, Trust Headquarters, Marlborough Street, Bristol
BS1 3NU
Email: [email address]

http://www.uhbristol.nhs.uk/

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