The scrolling images above are of board members , directors and senior managers of SABP and MCCH Society Ltd. These images are already available online on SABP's and MCCH's own websites. Click on images for details of who these people are.

Friday, March 16, 2007

More Kafkaesque Excuses from SABP over FOIA Delays, Ommissions & Abuse

According to Elaine Gould Head of Healthcare Services at Surrey & Borders Partnership Trust I am somehow responsible for the delays, ommissions and abuse her Trust applied to my FOIA requests.

Even so, Elaine is very quick to professionally reassure me that this matter is still being treated as a formal complaint even though if it is this complaint dating from February 2nd according to Ms Gould, has also ran some weeks over the time the NHS formally allots for dealing with complaints.

Still, lets not get bogged down with such minor contradictory details as in stark contrast to the official delaying tactics used against service users requesting information , the Surrey & Borders Partnership NHS Trust management clearly can act quickly when it wants to , as evidenced by Trust CEO Fiona Edwards and her husband very hastilly co-ordinating the removal of her Trust's name from his company's SOFTOOLS website in a couple of hours when I pointed out the obvious conflict of interest in Mr Edwards firm using the Trust managed by his wife to drum up business.

Still, we all tend to prioritise family matters over trivial work issues dont we...

Now if you dont mind Ms Edwards could you please provide the address of your accounts department , the third time I have asked for this information as an FOIA request, and leave it to the Courts to decide whether I have a legal right to submit an invoice and claim for the deliberate and completely unnecessary costs your Trust has imposed on me.

All monies recovered will be donated to a small local charity


Des Curley

Kingsfield Resource Centre

Philanthropic road




Mr Des Curley

15th March 2007

Dear Mr Curley

I have been asked to review your Freedom of Information Act requests made to the Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Trust (the “Trust”), as was indicated to you in the letters from Fiona Edwards dated 2 February and 7 February 2007.

I am the Head of Healthcare Systems at the Trust and I have been asked to review, on appeal, your previous Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) queries made to the Trust.

I have reviewed your previous FOIA requests dating back to mid 2006 and note that you have had a full response to the majority of these requests. I note from your correspondence with the Trust that you have not taken issue with information provided under these previous FOIA requests, but that you have made a formal complaint about the way in which your FOIA queries were dealt with.

From my review of the papers, there are three outstanding e-mails regarding your FOIA requests which have not yet been dealt with. These are your e-mails dated 24 November 2006, 5 February 2007 and 6 February 2007. Please find my response to these requests below;

1. E-mail requests

I have reviewed the file in relation to your three e-mails detailed above. I note from your e-mail dated 24 December 2006 that you have requested clarification that you had previously contacted Ms Young regarding your Freedom of Information requests. I have looked back at the correspondence in relation to this request and note that you did indeed e-mail Ms W Cox about this matter on 22 November 2006.

I understand from your e-mail that you were unhappy with Ms Young’s comments in the letter to Ms Goble dated 21 December 2006. After reading the letter I fear there may have been a misunderstanding in relation to Ms Young’s letter. Ms Young’s letter had been a response to Ms Goble’s FOIA query and her letter was stating that without consent from you, she would be unable to comment on your FOIA query.

Ms Young’s letter does incorrectly state that she had not received a response from you, for which I apologise. I do not feel Ms Young was trying to be misleading or obstructive in her response to Ms Goble or to yourself, as if she had released information about your request, she may have been in breach of the Data Protection Act.

( Damn, the Data Protection Act forced Jo Young to lie about not receiving a response from me....that makes sense...)

I understand that Ms Goble and yourself work for the same campaign, however Ms Young would still have required your explicit consent before releasing any information about your query.

As your most recent e-mails do not make any requests for new information, I would conclude that your requests for information have been dealt with, and the Trust are now to deal with your formal complaint about the way in which your requests were handled

2. Formal Complaint

Ms Edwards’ letter dated 2 February 2007 does correctly state that FOIA requests fall outside the scope of the NHS (Complaints) Regulations. Your email and following correspondence all make reference to a formal complaint about the way your requests were handled, rather than to you being dissatisfied with the information you were given.

I note that there was some initial delay in responding to your queries for which I apologise, however the Trust have provided you with the information which you have requested.

For your reference, I understand that this formal complaint is being dealt with and you will be contacted as soon as the complaint has been fully investigated.

3. Questions to the Board

I note from your e-mail dated 22 November 2006 that you were still awaiting the response to some questions which you forwarded to the Trust Board. I have looked into this matter and I note that you submitted some questions to the Trust Board Meeting dated 28 September 2006. The minutes of that meeting show however that your questions were addressed and answered in full.

4. Invoices sent to the Trust

I also note that you have several times requested an address to which you could invoice the Trust for the time spent on your FOIA queries. The FOIA does not permit applicants to charge Public Authorities for their time spent in preparing their request. I apologise for the fact that we cannot comply with your invoice, and I apologise for the fact that this was not made clear to you from the start, however there is no legal right under which you can charge the Trust for your time.

5. Conclusion

I now consider that all of your requests for information have been dealt with. Should you disagree, kindly set out the information, which you have previously requested, on which you have not received a response. If there is any information that you still require, the Trust will of course do all that it can to provide it to you.

With regard to your formal complaint (made 24 December 2006) about the manner in which your FOIA requests have been handled, the Trust will contact you as soon as you as they have completed the investigation.

Should you wish to appeal against the decisions made by the Trust in providing you with information, please write to the following address:

The Information Commissioner's Office,

Wycliffe House,

Water Lane,




Yours sincerely

Elaine Gould

Head of Healthcare Systems


Monday, March 05, 2007

Appeal for crash tragedy survivor

Paramedics from the Yorkshire Air Ambulance Service have launched a fundraising appeal for an eight-year-old boy from South Tyneside who survived a crash in which four members of his family died.

Paula Marie Gilbert, 29, her partner Neil Jex, 37, and sons Tristan, three, and Kaiden Gilbert, seven months, died in Saturday's accident.

Macauley Gilbert was airlifted from the scene on the A1 near Catterick badly injured but was in a stable condition in hospital on Monday . Macauley was airlifted to James Cook University Hospital, on Teesside.

Martin Eede, Yorkshire Air Ambulance chief executive said "

It's not often that something touches the paramedics the way this has " The Air ambulance crew gave the stricken youngster a teddy bear for comfort and he is still clutching it tightly in hospital and refusing to let go.

This is the first time the Yorkshire Air Ambulance Service have launched such an appeal.

Sgt John Lumbard, of North Yorkshire Police, said: "Two families have been totally devastated by this tragic road collision which has taken the lives of two parents and their two young children."A third child is in hospital after undergoing surgery and has other family members with him.

"But it's a miracle that he has survived at all.

"He is going to need an awful lot of support to get through this."

You can make a donation, a lot or a little as it all counts, on the Macauley appeal website.

The guys from the Yorkshire Air Ambulance also deserve a donation to keep them aloft. Donations can be made to their service fund through through their own website


Saturday, March 03, 2007

NHS Staff Protest over Job Cuts & Closures

Hot on the heels of news that the majority of the CEOs of the UK's NHS Trusts think that the Government is mismanaging the finances of the National Health Service - leaving us piggies in the middle of their 'blame game' again - NHS staff are today planning to march and rally in a number of cities across the UK over cuts to NHS jobs and services.

The events are being co-ordinated by NHS Together, an alliance of unions and NHS staff organisations. The alliance states that its aim to warn that services are under threat from deficits and "constant change".

Demonstrations are set to take place in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield and Belfast.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber is expected to tell a rally in Sheffield that the government is in danger of "squandering" the political credit it has earned for its investment in the NHS.

He said people were telling pollsters that the NHS had not improved since Labour came to power, although their own experiences of the NHS were positive.

Mr Barber is set to say: "We have a message to the cynics and opponents today. Stop trashing the NHS - join with us in celebrating the achievements - not just of doctors and nurses but the whole health team.

I have a message for Mr Barber and NHS management and staff, please stop trashing patients and carers as cynics and opponents when we simply want and expect a more user friendly , focussed and accountable NHS and maybe if we see, particularly within MH , genuine movement in that direction more of us will gladly rally alongside you .

Go here to sign Petition to support NHS Together

For further details of marches, rallies and events planned for today check out NHS Together Day of Action Events .


Friday, March 02, 2007

Enquiry into Govt buying or Commissioning services from Third Sector

Paul Brian Tovey drew my attention to this enquiry and think it is pertinent to what this campaign has been about for the last 8 months and why there needs to be greater transparency, professional accountability , regulation and choice accompanying any transfer of public services to the third sector. If you have the time and the inclination, why not make a submission to the enquiry yourself.

There is a Third Sector Advisory Group - the website makes it clear that this is not a consultative group . There are two vacancies for this group. If you wish to apply to be a member of this Advisory Group you can do so here.

Public Administration Select Committee: Inquiry

Commissioning Public Services from the Third Sector

The Public Administration Select Committee today has launched an inquiry into the growing trend toward Government buying or commissioning services from the “third sector”: Charity or voluntary organisations and NGOs that do not fall into the traditional public or private sectors. The Committee is calling for interested organisations and individuals to submit evidence to the inquiry.

Since 1997 Government has increasingly emphasised the role of the third sector in helping to develop and deliver better public services, as part of the wider policy agenda of increasing competition and choice in public services. This is a key part of the role of the new Office of the Third Sector, established in May 2006 and reporting to Ed Miliband.

In some cases third sector organisations may be better able to provide a service or to innovate, or to involve groups which are traditionally difficult to reach. Conversely, critics suggest that the third sector’s independence could be compromised by becoming Government contractors and there are questions about how these “contracted-out” providers of public services can be held accountable.

The Committee’s inquiry seeks to explore the costs and benefits of the government’s policy - which may be different for the state, the third sector, and for those that use the public services - and to judge the effectiveness of the government’s approach.

Committee chairman Tony Wright MP said:

“More and more of our traditional state services are now being performed in the voluntary sector. There are real issues that need discussion here, and the time seems right for this committee to look into it. It’s an exciting new area for us as a committee, and I hope to hear from all kinds of groups and organisations we don’t usually hear from.”

Commissioning Public Services from the Third Sector
An Issues and Questions Paper

PASC – the Public Administration Select Committee – is inquiring into the role of the Third Sector in providing services directly to the public on behalf of the state, and the potential benefits and risks of the Government's policy of commissioning services from non-government bodies.
Background: The Third Sector and Commissioning
The term ‘third sector’ describes the range of institutions which occupy the space between the State and the private sector. These include small local community and voluntary groups, registered charities both large and small, foundations, trusts and the growing number of social enterprises and co-operatives. Since 1997 government policy has particularly emphasised the role of the sector in helping to develop and deliver better public services. The government’s push to do this is part of a wider policy agenda of contestability, or opening up markets for public services to new suppliers from the private and third sector.
Under this model, public, private and third sector suppliers compete for public service contracts on a truly ‘level playing-field’ without discrimination on the basis of their sector membership. Successful bidders will be those that can deliver value for money services, combining quality with cost-effectiveness. No supplier will have a permanent or assumed right to public contracts; regular review processes will ensure that the quality of service is maintained or, if quality declines, that a new supplier is brought in.
The third sector has a key role to play in this new atmosphere of competition, the government believes, because of its unique benefits: expertise in its specialist areas; its ability to connect with groups which are difficult for state organisations to reach; and innovation to develop new forms of public services. The government has looked to overseas models – for example, employment training services in Australia, where third sector organisations are the largest contractors with government – as a potential model of the future for UK public services.
Although many third sector organisations, particularly the larger national charities and the membership organisation acevo, have seen these signals from government as an opportunity to help shape and improve public services – ‘transformation not transfer’ - their enthusiasm is not universal. Many third sector organisations, particularly the medium-sized and small, regional and local operators, fear an increasing ‘polarisation’ of the sector between large national players operating as government contractors, and smaller, marginalised organisations engaged in a struggle for shrinking amounts of grant funding. Opponents of the ‘public service delivery agenda’ see it as a threat to the sector’s independence and ability to campaign: they ask how likely it is that organisations which are dependent on government contracts will ‘bite the hand that feeds them’ by criticising government policy.
The concept of contestability also gives rise to some interesting practical and operational questions. Many of the government’s policy initiatives on third sector service delivery have resulted in measures which remove potential barriers to third sector organisations competing for public contracts. However, some of these measures do not apply ‘one rule for all’ but allow special approaches to dealing with the third sector. For example, government has a commitment to provide payment in advance of expenditure, where appropriate, to third sector organisations that might otherwise have difficulty meeting the ‘upfront’ costs of their service delivery activities. This approach would not usually be applied in contracts with the private sector, where cash-flow management is generally assumed to be the responsibility of the supplier. In January 2006 the Confederation of British Industry published “A fair field and no favours - competitive neutrality in UK public service markets” in which it outlined the barriers it saw to a level playing field between state, private and voluntary sectors .
Lastly, commissioning services will potentially change the way in which service providers are held accountable. Contractual arrangements will replace direct political accountability, and there may also be changes in the way in which users relate to service providers.
Key questions
This inquiry will be considering the evidence for the benefits of commissioning and contestability. However, there may well be different costs and benefits for the state, for the third sector, and for those that use the public services which are being contracted out. Our key questions seek to probe the extent of theses costs and benefits of the government’s policy, and to help us judge the effectiveness of the government’s approach.
The services involved also differ greatly in nature, scope and size of operation, from school transport to major medical treatment. Evidence that points to specific examples will therefore be particularly valued.
1. What are the benefits of contestabilty to the users of public services?
a. Have services which have been transferred to third sector organisations shown improvements in quality?
b. Is loss of accountability a threat of commissioning services? If so, how can this best be managed?
2. Is the third sector more likely to provide better public services than the state or the private sector?
a. Is there evidence that where services are provided by the third sector, that they are popular with those that use them?
b. Is there evidence of demand for more services to be provided by the third sector? If so, who from?
c. Do public services provided by the third sector more accurately reflect the changing needs of those that use them?
d. Is there evidence that contracting to the third sector leads to greater scope for innovation in public service delivery?
3. Does commissioning benefit the third sector?
a. Will contractual relationships with the state improve stability within the third sector?
b. Will close involvement with service provision prevent third sector organisations retaining the ability to be critical of government?
c. Is there a risk that the service providers will become increasingly bureaucratic?
d. Is there a risk that third sector organisations will lose their independence, their identity or their distinctive ethos?
e. Might the third sector become polarised between large service providing organisations and more radical groups? If so, would this matter?
4. Does commissioning services from the third sector have any benefits for the state?
a. Does the state risk losing control of service delivery in a way which might be damaging?
b. What capacity will the state need to ensure that it can be an intelligent customer of services?
c. How is duplication of effort in order to monitor and manage contracts best avoided?
d. How good is the state at managing bidding processes and defining contractual obligations when commissioning services?
5. What are the financial implications of providing services through the third sector compared with directly provided state services?
a. Are services cheaper to provide?
b. Are there ‘hidden costs’ such as contract oversight?
c. Are the benefits of the third sector participation in public service provision so great that it is appropriate to have financial rules which encourage this, or should the aim be to have "competitive neutrality" between public, private and voluntary sectors?
6. Are the costs and benefits to the state the same when commissioned from the third and private sectors?

How to respond to this paper
PASC would like to receive responses to any or all of the questions in this paper. Although some of the questions could theoretically be answered by a simple yes or no, the Committee would especially value extended memoranda with background evidence where appropriate. Some respondents may wish to concentrate on those issues in which they have a special interest, rather than necessarily answering all the questions.
Evidence submitted should:
 be submitted as hard copy on A4 paper and as an electronic file also, by email to, or on computer disk in Rich Text Format, ASCII, WordPerfect 8 or Word. Hard copies should be sent to Eve Samson, Clerk, Public Administration Select Committee, Committee Office, First Floor, Committee Office, 7 Millbank, London SW1P 3JA;
 have a covering letter containing your full postal address and contact details;
 any memorandum of more than ten pages should begin with a one page summary;
 avoid the use of colour or expensive-to-print material;
 further guidance on the submission of evidence can be found at
Memoranda will usually be treated as evidence to the Committee and may be published as part of a final report. If you object to your memorandum being made public in a volume of evidence please make this clear when it is submitted.
Memoranda should be submitted by 2 March 2007 as hard copy on A4 paper and as an electronic file also, by email to, or on computer disk in Rich Text Format, ASCII, WordPerfect 8 or Word. Hard copies should be sent to Eve Samson, Clerk, Public Administration Select Committee, Committee Office, First Floor, Committee Office, 7 Millbank, London SW1P 3JA.
The Committee expects to hold oral evidence sessions from March 2007.


Back to Square One as Surrey PCT Treats Future of Garden Centre as Official Secret

From Jill Goble

Right. I have just spoken on the phone to Mr Emmanual Gbetuwa who is Comissioner and Service Development Manager Mental Health at the East Surrey PCT.

He said MCCH have pulled out and don't want the Old Moat Garden Centre.

He says that critical negotiations are now going on with other parties but he won't tell me who these are with. These may be completed by the end of the month. The transfer to anyone new won't take place in April but will depend on when any contract details are finalised.

Mr Gbetuwa seemed keen to stress that closure of the centre is the last option they want to look at. He also said we should not be on opposing sides as we all want what is in the best interests of the disabled workers. But when I questioned him on the viability of the garden centre as a commercial enterprise he said that the place was not set up as a business and the selling of plants etc was just a by product of the training and other activites that go on there. He didn't seem impressed by the need to create as many real jobs as possible for the disabled workers.

I said I would ring back at the end of the month to see if there is any news concerning negotiations on the future of the Old Moat.

So basically despite the MCCH report we are now no nearer knowing about the future of the Old Moat or what will happen to the disabled workers.


Jill's Initial Response to MCCH Report

My next comment concerns the issue of the status of the Old Moat which Diane Woods wrote would be placed in the voluntary sector as the MCCH report says it is not viable in their time limits to be run as a social enterprise/firm. Also in this report,although we are not allowed to see proper accounts the problems of the high overheads as an obstacle in making a profit at the garden centre are seen as a reason for it not to be a social firm or enterprise. But I have been reading around and there is no reason why the garden centre could not have part of its activites set up as a commercial firm/enterprise and the other part in the voluntary/charity sector and so eligible for whatever grants they want to see coming their way. For example this is a quote from the Charities Information Bureau on Social Enterprise:

'Very often part of an organisations activites can be classed as 'social enterprise' but not all. For example, a charity in itself is not a social enterprise. However, the trading arm which sells donated clothes and other household good from a high street shop is definitely a social enterprise.'

I think the MCCH report and Diane Woods attitude at the PCT shows inflexibility in accepting potential organisation structures for the garden centre which could combine both job creation and profitability in the commercial side of the business as a social enterprise together with subsidies for the training and therapeutic rols which cause the high overheads and stop the centre itself being profitable now. I have only just started looking at the potential organisation structures available and have found a lot on this subject on the WWW. MCCH and the PCT have had since Spring 2005 to look at all the options but they have taken a rigid either/or attitude that does not need to be adopted.

Once again it is hard to be precise without the true facts of the accounts available to us but it is obvious that they do not need to be so inflexible.


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