Some Act makes us do this, we think.

Delegates on our courses will know that Act Now collect fair processing notices both good and bad and now and again we find a real beauty. This is from a local GP surgery and they’ve gone to great lengths to not actually use the D word or the P word. I suppose they thought it would frighten the natives. Key elements of the fair processing code are also missing but hey! it’s a very polite notice which says er… not much.




I popped into my doctor’s surgery this week for a routine blood test. I was fortunate as I got an appointment quite easily which is unusual. They have a strange system of making appointments. At 8-30 am every weekday they the phone calls from people wanting appointments in the morning surgery then at 9-00 am they take appointments from people wanting to attend evening surgery. At 9-30 am they stop taking phone calls for the day’s appointments as they’ve all been taken. Unfortunately they have more people wanting appointments than there are appointments so the chances of getting through to the receptionists are almost zero (or as Don King once famously said – you’ve got 2 chances son, Slim and none and Slim’s just left town).

Because of this local people have realised that they have a better chance of getting an appointment by turning up in person so at 8-15 am a queue starts and can reach 30 people by half past. At 8-29 am these people are let in and the serendipity between phone callers and real human beings begins its balancing act.

You’re all thinking “Why don’t they let people make appointments for the following day or the one after that?” This is where the care.patient philosophy really kicks in. The answer is they just don’t. You can book a slot next week. There are a lot of disgruntled people signed up with this surgery.

But they have moved into text messaging despite their failure to grasp telephone bookings and electronic diaries. When you make an appointment a week in the future they send you a text message to confirm your appointment. Then 24 hours before your appointment they send you the same message. Then 30 minutes before your appointment (when you’re probably getting on with life) they do absolutely nothing. If you’re outside the range of your smartphone alert system you’re stuffed.

But when you get past the Krypton test style appointment system you meet their 3rd commitment to technology. You can sign in using a machine in reception rather than talk to the receptionists. I did it. Month of birth followed by day of birth and it told me my name was Laura Wilson and my appointment was 11-10am.  No it isn’t. I tried to check in again and this time it told me it could not check me in and directed me to reception. I joined the queue of incorrectly identified patients to tell them their machine wasn’t working we were told in a loud and annoyed voice that the machine was working and the name shown on the screen wasn’t our name but the name of the person our appointment was with. Silly me (and the rest of the people who fell for this simple ruse de medicine). If it had said Doctor Laura Wilson I might have grasped it.

So they can’t do phone, electronic diaries, text and personless check ins. Let’s hope they never get round to databases.

Oh and you’ll be glad to know that I did have some blood in my alcohol.

New Bodies Subject to Scottish FOI (FOISA) on 1st April 2014

file3521280608873On Tuesday (1st April 2014), more bodies in Scotland will be made subject to the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (‘FOISA’).

 The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (Designation of Persons as Scottish Public Authorities) Order 2013 has been made under section 5 of FOISA which gives the Scottish Ministers the power to add additional organisations to the list of Scottish Public Authorities. Section 5(2) sets out the criteria for making such an order.

The organisation must :

“(a) appear to the Scottish Ministers to exercise functions of a public nature; or

(b) are providing, under a contract made with a Scottish public authority, any service whose provision is a function of that authority.”

The new order extends FOISA to organisations created by councils to delivering leisure and sporting facilities. More precisely, in the words of the order, bodies:

 “(a) established or created solely by one or more local authorities;

 (b) whose functions on behalf of any of those authorities include developing and/or delivering recreational, sporting, cultural or social facilities and activities; and

 c) which in carrying out those functions is financed wholly or in part by any of those authorities”

 There is no legally definitive list of additional bodies, which will become subject to FOISA under the S.5 order on 1st April. It is for each organisation to satisfy itself if it meets these conditions.

However, pursuant to a FOISA request, the Scottish Information Commissioner has released, amongst other things, a list of potential bodies drawn up by her office in March 2013 while the draft S.5 order was being debated in the Scottish Parliament. Examples from the list include Culture and Sport Glasgow , Inverclyde Leisure, Sport Aberdeen and Fife Golf Trust. You can find more here. It is important to note that the Commissioner has issued this list with the caveat that it does not constitute a legally definitive list for the purposes of the order.

The Scottish Government intends to consult further in due course on extending freedom of information coverage to other arm’s length organisations.

The order comes after a consultation in July 2010 by the Scottish Government on whether the coverage of FOISA should be extended to the following bodies:

  • Contractors building and maintaining hospitals and schools
  • Contractors operating privately managed prisons, providing prisoner escort and court custody services
  • Contractors operating and maintaining trunk roads under private finance contracts
  • The Glasgow Housing Association (GHA)
  • The Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS)
  • Bodies created by local authorities to provide leisure, culture and sport services

 Interesting how the Scottish Government decided not to make contractors subject to FOISA. In the rest of the UK, the debate on this issue has been reignited recently. The Government has once again flip flopped and mixed messages have come out about contractors being made subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FO)).

 Initially there was talk of extension of FOI to the private sector. Now it is about extension of FOI through a new code of practice. This will be the subject of one of two new consultations announced recently.

It remains to be seen who will be the first to say yes to more openness and transparency for the private sector!

 Think you know about FOISA? Have a go at the FOISA test.

 Act Now Training has now designed a new certificated course; the Practitioner Certificate in the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002. The course is endorsed by the Centre for FOI based at Dundee University.

Net Loss or Net Gain


Great news.  If you use East coast trains extensively you can collect Reward points. This festive season you can maybe win a thousand or even (gasp) a million if you sign up now.

That’s enough to get you free Wi-Fi on your next East Coast journey…enjoy VIP treatment in a First Class Lounge…or save up for a great choice of gifts like fine wine, free train travel and lots more. It’s fast, free and easy to join so get on board today and who knows, Father Christmas could be delivering an extra gift with love from us!

Unfortunately if you exercise your right not to receive marketing material from East Coast guess what happens to these millions of points.

When you use wifi on an East Coast Train this is what you see.

To get internet access, please enter your email address.

Remember Me. Please untick if you do not wish to receive marketing communications from East Coast.

Please note that unticking this box will suspend your Rewards membership, meaning you are not able to earn or use Rewards Points.

Freely Given Consent? I’m sure other phrases will spring to mind…

Ho, Ho, Ho

A waste of energy


We’re renovating a house which we don’t live in.

1) An energy company writes to say they’ve called twice to read the meter but no-one is in.
Yes because we don’t live there.
In the letter they say please make an appointment for them to read your meter. Partner and joint owner of the house rings up to do so. Energy company refuse to talk to her as bill is in my name. Data Protection…
She grumbles. They say OK we’ll make an appointment but we won’t tell you when it is. My partner points out the obvious error. They withdraw their offer.
 2) They talk to me today as they need to make an appointment for meter replacement. The team that does that finish at 5 and it’s after 5. Can we ring you monday – No I’m actually training all day – will you talk to my partner. I can authorise her to talk to you. They say yes but this authorisation will expire when the call centre operative goes home at 8pm today.
It’s not Eon. I’ve been saving this graphic for a while. It hits the spot.

The school that didn’t learn its lesson.

In 2011 I received a gorgeous CD through the mail from a school. It invited me to send my children (at the time aged 30, 29 and 25) to their school (35 miles away from my house). Read the full story on Act Now website ( a Northern school). I did complain to the ICO but his decision was in favour of the school. This was my conclusion to the affair.

“A school/college with no prior relationship with me buys my name from a list broker as I am apparently rich and with junior age children (wrong on both counts) and then sends me unsolicited marketing material through the post. When I exercise my right to subject access they ignore it for two and a half weeks then fail to give me what I ask for because they don’t know from where they obtained my personal data.

The ICO when asked to look into the case decides the college did nothing wrong.

Moral – keep bad records, mail who you like even those with no relevance to your product, fail to respond to individuals exercising their right to access promptly and you’ll be fine rather than fined. “

I put it down to experience never expecting to hear from the school again but today they emailed me. Despite me reporting them to the ICO and an investigation taking place and their promise to delete my name and address from their database they emailed me with an offer I couldn’t refuse.

I will complain again. This time I have PECR on my side as they have strayed into electronic marketing as well as basic section 11 stuff. The school is also now a serial offender. Will the ICO listen, take action or will I get a similar response 5 months after I complain. See you around Xmas time.

It’s time to name and shame Queen Ethelburgas. Look out for the information notice.

It gets worse.  I chose to report the message as spam as they invited me to. Here’s the screenshot of  their procedure. Only a few errors in spelling and punctuation.


How to waste money and upset people

12023750-hospital-road-sign-on-a-white-backgroundOnce upon a time there were 6 people working for the NHS. Two of them in particular (let’s call them A & B)  were working on a function required by law which was difficult but over the previous 4 years they’d worked on it, sorted it out and had received plaudits for their work and were nationally acknowledged to be leading edge practitioners.

Then the NHS reforms started. Their PCT was being killed off and staff were transferring to  a new organisation. As usual a slotting in process was set up but surprisingly both A (the director level) and B (the admin level) person were not slotted in which was wierd as they were the only two working on this function. So they had to apply for their own jobs.

The NHS had decided that because there was no slotting in it was a job that anyone could do so they opened up applications to anyone at the same pay level.

A applied for his job and didn’t get it. B applied for her job (although she was actually applying for 3 jobs at a particular pay grade and once appointed would be allocated a job). There were 3 applicants for 3 jobs. Suddenly a person on the same grade who was on maternity leave found out that the jobs were available and applied. That meant that there were 4 people for 3 jobs. Things became tense. It became intense when it was decided that  the candidate on Maternity leave would be given one of the 3 jobs without needing to attend for interview even though they didn’t work in the particular department. When this was questioned it was found out that this was the law. So someone was going to lose out.

B didn’t succeed at interview. C, D  & E got the three jobs and would be managed by F. C stayed at home as she was on maternity leave. C, D, E & F didn’t know anything about the function. A & B did but had moved on. B has attended another generic interview and been given a different job in a different city doing a job she knew nothing about as it was generic job description.

Time passed. A moved on, B watched D, E & F try to understand a job she had been doing very well for years (and failing). Deadlines set by legislation were missed. The previous high quality system fell into disrepair. Then C returned to work but only half time. She didn’t help much as she knew nothing about the job (and didn’t really want it) so now there were 3.5 people not doing a job that B could have done standing on her head. D decided she didn’t like the job and started looking for alternatives. F went to 3 days a week as she had child care issues and E went on an extended holiday. The only person ready, willing and able to do the job was B who was struggling with a new job she didn’t really want. The big boss was informed of the situation and after a milli second decided that the people who didn’t know anything about the job and didn’t want it should “get on with it”.

A week later B resigned from the job she didn’t want. No-one is happy; no work is being done; a function required by law is lying fallow; millions have been spent destroying a structure that was working. 6 people and their families have been through the restructure grinder and been spat out the other end.

Post script. A & B had created an application in access that managed the function beautifully. It was so good that it was sold on to many other similar teams all over the country. They’re all really happy with it. The original system created by an enthusiastic systems analyst has been destroyed and corrupted by people who don’t know what they’re doing. The analyst has resigned.

Not much to do with information, I know. Had to get it off my chest.

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