Register of payments from pharmaceutical companies to staff

Jonathan Mendel made this Freedom of Information request to South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust

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The request was successful.

Dear South Tyneside 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 Information Requests, South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust

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Dear Dr Mendel

Can you please specify the time period you are looking at and also what you mean by 'payment' - ie financial, entertainment, academic sponsorship etc

Regards

Sylvia

Sylvia Rees
Private Office Assistant

South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust
Harton Lane
South Shields
NE34 0PL
0191 4041000 ext 3018
[email address]

The information contained in this e-mail is confidential and is intended only for the named recipient.  If you are not the named recipient you must not copy or distribute this message, please notify the sender of the error.  Any unauthorised disclosure of the information contained within this e-mail is strictly prohibited.

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Dear Sylvia,

Thanks for your reply. In answer to your questions:
- If you hold these data, I would be interested in 'payment' broadly defined to include: speaking fees; consulting fees; research/academic funding or sponsorship; funding for travel/CPD/event attendance; funding for educational items; gifts; and royalty or license fees. In short, I'd be interested in the type of payment that might - in certain circumstances - need to be declared as a conflict of interest. If you do not hold data on these types of payment in readily accessible form, perhaps you could let me know which data you do hold and we can discuss what might be an appropriate response to my request (I do not want to create excessive work for the Trust, of course). I am also aware that the above list of payments is somewhat US-focussed, so if aspects of this are not relevant in a UK context I'm happy to discuss this.
- In terms of time period, I would be interested in data for the past 5 years.

Yours sincerely,

Jonathan

Freedom of Information Requests, South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust

Thank you for your request under Freedom of Information Act 2000, your
request will be processed and a response provided as soon as possible. 
Please note that due to technical reasons, the Trust is unable to respond
to hotmail accounts, please resend any request with alternative contact
information.

Freedom of Information Requests, South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Mendel

Please find attached the response from South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust, I apologise for the delay in responding to your request

Under the terms and rights provided by the Freedom of Information Act 2000 you have a right to complain and have any such complaint investigated thoroughly in accordance with the Trust Freedom of Information/Environmental Information Regulations complaints procedure (attached). If you have any complaint about how this request has been processed please contact my office. In the first instance we will try to resolve any issues immediately, but where there is a point which can not be agreed informally the complaints procedure will be invoked. You have a right under the Act to complain directly to the Information Commissioner’s Office (http://www.ico.gov.uk/). The Commissioner’s Office will not normally hear a complaint until the internal complaints procedure has been completed.

I hope that this is helpful.

PLEASE NOTE THE NEW EMAIL ADDRESS FOR FOI REQUESTS – [email address]

Sylvia

Sylvia Rees
Private Office Assistant

South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust
Harton Lane
South Shields
NE34 0PL
0191 4041000 ext 3018
[email address]

The information contained in this e-mail is confidential and is intended only for the named recipient.  If you are not the named recipient you must not copy or distribute this message, please notify the sender of the error.  Any unauthorised disclosure of the information contained within this e-mail is strictly prohibited.

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Jonathan Mendel

Dear South Tyneside 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...

Freedom of Information Requests, South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust

Thank you for your request under Freedom of Information Act 2000, your
request will be processed and a response provided as soon as possible. 
Please note that due to technical reasons, the Trust is unable to respond
to hotmail accounts, please resend any request with alternative contact
information.

Freedom of Information Requests, South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Mendel

Please find attached the response from South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust

Under the terms and rights provided by the Freedom of Information Act 2000 you have a right to complain and have any such complaint investigated thoroughly in accordance with the Trust Freedom of Information/Environmental Information Regulations complaints procedure. If you have any complaint about how this request has been processed please contact my office. In the first instance we will try to resolve any issues immediately, but where there is a point which can not be agreed informally the complaints procedure will be invoked. You have a right under the Act to complain directly to the Information Commissioner’s Office (http://www.ico.gov.uk/). The Commissioner’s Office will not normally hear a complaint until the internal complaints procedure has been completed.

I hope that this is helpful.

PLEASE NOTE THE NEW EMAIL ADDRESS FOR FOI REQUESTS – [email address]

Sylvia

Sylvia Rees
Private Office Assistant

South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust
Harton Lane
South Shields
NE34 0PL
0191 4041000 ext 3018
[email address]

The information contained in this e-mail is confidential and is intended only for the named recipient.  If you are not the named recipient you must not copy or distribute this message, please notify the sender of the error.  Any unauthorised disclosure of the information contained within this e-mail is strictly prohibited.

show quoted sections