Register of payments from pharmaceutical companies to staff

Jonathan Mendel made this Freedom of Information request to Birmingham Children's Hospital 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.

Waiting for an internal review by Birmingham Children's Hospital NHS Foundation Trust of their handling of this request.

Jonathan Mendel

Dear Birmingham Children’s Hospital 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...

Evans Sarah (RQ3) BCH, Birmingham Children's Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Please accept this email as formal acknowledgement of your request for information dated 07/05/2013

This request will be processed in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and unless you are otherwise informed, your request will be processed within a maximum of twenty working days from receipt, which in this case was 06/06/2013

At this moment, we are unaware of any fees, charges or exemptions likely to be applied to your request. However, if during the course of processing your application it becomes clear that fees will apply, we will inform you of this. In the event that costs are applicable, no information will be provided unless the costs are paid within three months of us informing you. In the event that some or all of the information you have requested is exempt from disclosure, we will inform you of this.

We will also contact you if during the process it emerges that we do not have sufficient detail to locate the information or we are unclear exactly what it is that you have requested.

In the meantime if you wish to discuss any aspect of your request please feel free to contact me on the details above.

Yours Sincerely

Publication Scheme Co-ordinator

www.bchcharity.org
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Freedom Of Information (RQ3) BCH, Birmingham Children's Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Dear Jonathan

What period of time does this request relate to? Please let me know.

Thank you

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Jonathan Mendel

Hi,

Thanks for your reply. Initially, information to cover the past five years would be great.

Yours faithfully,

Jonathan Mendel

Freedom Of Information (RQ3) BCH, Birmingham Children's Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

3 Attachments

Dear Mr Mendel

 

 

Please find attached the Trust's response to your freedom of information
request.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

Publication Scheme Coordinator

 

 

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Jonathan Mendel

Dear Birmingham Children’s Hospital 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...