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GP says sorry for naming woman in FOI query
7:00am Friday 20th April 2012 in News
Bedwyn GP Tim Ballard has apologised to a woman after he criticised her, saying staff time had been taken up answering requests she made under the Freedom of Information Act.
Dr Ballard, the senior partner at the Old School Surgery in Church Street, Great Bedwyn, received an FOI request from Anthea Rogers, of Copyhold, about its finances and income from its pharmacy.
Dr Ballard, writing in Bedwyn Parish News, said: “It is a truism that rights come with responsibilities in a democratic society.”
He said his surgery had received “complex requests” under the Freedom of Information Act from Mrs Rogers about the finances of the surgery including income from the dispensary.
“I was happy to disclose how much taxpayer income we received to provide the service but declined to disclose the specific income from the dispensary on the grounds that this is commercially sensitive and could lead to a pharmacy moving in, threatening the existence of the surgery,” he said.
Mrs Rogers appealed to the Information Commissioner who upheld the surgery’s decision and told doctors it did not have to reveal commercially sensitive information.
In the newsletter, Dr Ballard, who writes a regular column, named Mrs Rogers and said: “The effect was that this whole procedure consumed ten hours of practice time that would have been much better used focusing on patient care.”
He added that four other local practices had “received similar FOI requests from Anthea”.
Mrs Rogers said she had made the requests for information believing the public had a right to know how public money was being spent.
In a letter of apology to Mrs Rogers, Dr Ballard accepted he had breached the Data Protection Act by naming her and said: “I am sorry that I named you in the article in the parish magazine. I am sorry that this has distressed you.”
Dr Ballard told Mrs Rogers hers was the first FOI request the surgery had received.
He said: “I was not aware I should have treated this with the same degree of confidentiality that I accord to all of my other professional data.”
He will publish an apology in the May magazine.