Case number: OIC-94371-G1M2H8
29 September 2020
The applicant attended MMUH on 5 October 2016 for a pre-arranged medical appointment. Despite attending the appointment, his attendance was erroneously recorded as “did not attend”. Subsequently upon learning of this, the applicant made a complaint to the hospital. He engaged in correspondence with a number of individuals within the Hospital. The Patient Liaison Manager wrote to the applicant on 18 April 2019 wherein she explained that due to a systems error he was recorded as failing to attend for an appointment with a named consultant on 5 October 2016. She confirmed that the “did not attend” recorded on the hospital’s computerised information system for the date in question was removed.
In a request dated 26 March 2020, the applicant sought access to all records relating to the appointment on 5 October 2016. He also sought a statement of reasons under section 10 of the Act “setting out the reasons for falsifying my medical records and of any findings on any material issues of fact made for the purposes of that falsification and its consequences”. This review is concerned solely with the application for a statement of reasons. The request for access to records has been dealt with in a separate review (Case number OIC-94370- J5K3K7 refers).
In a decision dated 24 April 2020, MMUH refused the FOI request under section 15(1)(i) which provides for the refusal of access to records already released to a requester where the records are available to the requester. While the decision letter made no reference to the section 10 application, the decision maker included a copy of the Patient Liaison Manager’s letter of 8 April 2019.
On 11 May 2020, the applicant sought an internal review of that decision. MMUH did not issue an internal review decision within the statutory time-frame. On 10 June 2020, the applicant sought a review by this Office of the deemed refusal of his request and his application for a statement of reasons. On 3 July 2020, MMUH issued a late internal review decision in which it provided the applicant with a statement of reasons. On 20 July 2020, the applicant indicated that he wanted the review to proceed.
I have now completed my review in accordance with section 22(2) of the FOI Act. In carrying out my review, I have had regard to correspondence between MMUH and the applicant as outlined above and to correspondence between this Office and both MMUH and the applicant on the matter. I have decided to conclude this review by way of a formal, binding decision.
The act for which a statement of reasons was sought in this case was the recording of an entry of “did not attend” on MMUH’s computerised information system in respect of a medical appointment the applicant attended on 5 October 2016. As I have outlined above, MMUH provided reasons in its late internal review decision of 3 July 2020. Accordingly, this review is concerned solely with whether MMUH has complied with the provisions of section 10 of the Act in response to the application for a statement of reasons as to why MMUH erroneously recorded that he did not attend the medical appointment in question.
Before I deal with the substantive issue arising, I should explain for the benefit of the applicant that this Office has no remit to investigate complaints, to adjudicate on how FOI bodies perform their functions generally, or to act as an alternative dispute resolution mechanism with respect to actions taken by FOI bodies. As such, we cannot examine the appropriateness, or otherwise, of acts or decisions taken by public bodies for which statements of reasons are sought.
Section 10 of the FOI Act provides that a person who is affected by an act of an FOI body, and has a material interest in a matter affected by the act or to which it relates, is entitled to a statement of reasons for the act as well as a statement of any findings on any material issues of fact made for the purposes of that act.
In its letter to the applicant dated 3 July 2020, MMUH explained that the applicant was booked for a particular test on 5 October 2016 which he attended. It said he was not registered on the Hospital’s patient Administration System (PAS) on 5 October 2016 at the time of his attendance and that a DNA (Did Not Attend) status was electronically applied to this appointment at midnight on 5 October 2016 on its PAS system. It said the non-registration of the applicant on the day of his appointment was an administration error. It said the error is now correct on the PAS system and the DNA status has been removed. It said the applicant was subsequently registered on 22 November 2017 for his attendance at the named consultant’s clinic on 5 October 2016.
On 17 September 2020, the caseworker dealing with the review informed the applicant of her view that the statement of reasons given was adequate for the purposes of section 10. However, she also invited him to submit any further comments he wished to make on the matter.
In his response of 21 September the applicant noted that the internal reviewer referred to the application for a statement of reasons as an application for reasons why his “appointment was cancelled” on the hospital system on the date in question. He argued that there is quite a difference between a patient failing to attend for an appointment and that appointment being cancelled. He suggested that if it was cancelled, he is entitled to know when and by whom it was cancelled, and why then, and by whom, was he recorded as a DNA. However, the majority of his submission related to his request for records. As I have indicated above, the applicant’s request for records was the subject of a separate review by this office and is of no relevance in this case.
I fully accept that a cancelled appointment is different to a failure of a patient to attend the appointment. However, it is clear from the statement of reason actually given that MMUH did not regard the appointment as having been cancelled. The statement clearly explains that the DNA status was electronically applied to the appointment as a result of the fact that the applicant was not registered on the hospital PAS system on the date in question, and that the non-registration was an administrative error.
This Office considers that a statement of reasons should be intelligible and adequate having regard to the particular circumstances of the case. It should be sufficiently clear to enable an applicant to understand without undue difficulty why the FOI body acted as it did. It should identify the criteria relevant to the act and explain how each of the criteria affected the act. However, a statement should necessarily have to contain a detailed clarification of all issues identified by an applicant as relevant to a particular act or decision.
Section 10 of the Act is not concerned with the appropriateness, or otherwise, of administrative actions taken by public bodies, nor does this Office have a role in examining such matters. Section 10 is concerned with providing the reasons for the act or decision and any findings on any material issues of fact made for the purposes of the act or decision concerned. If the body explains why it acted as it did, this Office has no further role in the matter. While the applicant may not be satisfied with the statement he received, I am satisfied that MMUH has adequately explained why it erroneously recorded that he did not attend the medical appointment in question.
In conclusion, therefore, I find that MMUH has complied with the requirements of section 10 in relation to the application for the statement of reasons sought.
Having carried out a review under section 22(2) of the FOI Act, I hereby affirm the decision of MMUH in this case. I find that it has complied with the provisions of section 10 of the Act in response to the application for a statement of reasons as to why it erroneously recorded that he did not attend a medical appointment on 5 October 2016.
Section 24 of the FOI Act sets out detailed provisions for an appeal to the High court by a party to a review, or any other person affected by the decision. In summary, such an appeal, normally on a point of law, must be initiated not later than four weeks after notice of the decision was given to the person bringing the appeal.