FOI Request - Review of Care Home Coronavirus Deaths
I would like a review of this response - specifically part 2 - for the following reasons:
- there is a precedent with other councils having provided the names of privately-run care homes, and the deaths therein. Where low numbers are involved, these can be anonymized by stating the figure is <5 or <10. This is common practice for FOI responses where numbers are low.
- have spoken to numerous relatives are more distressed by the lack of accountability/transparency by councils and private providers in revealing death figures, than the risk of identification. This is information that - despite the council's assertion - is very much in the public interest, and should be disclosed. In the wake of this article (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-53502590) I have received many messages from relatives who, as painful as it may be, want answers and transparency. One relative in this article also claims councils/providers are "hiding behind confidentiality".
Following your request for a review of our response to the FOI you submitted, Care Home Coronavirus Deaths – 101002532782, a review meeting was held virtually on 18th August 2020. In attendance were the Records and Heritage Manager, Senior Solicitor, Senior Commissioning Officer and Information Co-ordinator.
The Council withheld the exact number of deaths and the name(s) of any respective care home(s) in our original response, citing section 38(1)(b) of the Freedom of Information(Scotland) Act 2002; personal information. This exemption is not subject to the public interest test. The reasoning for this exemption was discussed; it was given due to the low numbers involved as it was felt that there was a risk that relatives of the deceased could be identified, compromising their right to privacy during this difficult time. It was agreed at the meeting that this risk remains, as such the original decision was upheld.
The meeting further discussed that causes of death are a person’s medical information and that due to the low numbers involved there was a risk of identifying individuals, as stated above. It was therefore agreed that in addition to section 38(1)(b), our original response should also have cited section 38(1)(d) of the Act; deceased person’s health record. This exemption is not subject to the public interest test.
The meeting then discussed whether the information could have been presented in a different way to clarify that the “less than 5” response was for the total across all care homes in Moray. Furthermore we could have clarified that there are 14 care homes in Moray and highlighted a published list, please see here, whilst noting that this list is up to date with the exception of Whinnybank which closed several years ago. We apologise for not having highlighted this, hopefully helpful, information previously.