Court action has been threatened against an NHS regulator over the delayed report of the mistreatment of whistleblowers.
An inquiry was carried out after a manager alleged Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust was manipulating its death rates.
With the media having learned of the situation, the BBC made a request for further information on the subject.
And the Freedom of Information Commissioner has warned the NHS Trust Development Authority that failure to respond to a BBC request could be contempt of court.
In response, the authority claimed that it had experienced difficulty in locating all of the requisite information.
But in the meantime, there must be question marks regarding the conduct of the organisation.
The independent inquiry had begun back in March 2014 after manager Sandra Haynes Kirkbright made the allegation.
The investigation was intended to provide an expedient examination of the treatment of whistleblowers by Chief Executive David Loughton.
Yes there have been repeated difficulties in acquiring information.
Former chairman Richard Harris, a non-executive director, David Ritchie, and cancer specialist David Ferry – a consultant who revealed patient safety concerns – have given evidence in the whistleblowing enquiry, while other credentialed individuals have also been involved.
Considering the length of time that the Wolverhampton trust has taken to respond to Freedom of information requests, it would be reasonable to conclude that something seems to be seriously awry.
The BBC had originally made an FOI request on 27th October, and followed up on this on 5th January, after investigations were blocked.
At that time, the BBC contacted the FOI commissioner after three attempts to get a response from the authority had proved unproductive.
Yet the Wolverhampton trust has still failed to comply with BBC requests; a tardiness that would seem to be simply indefensible.
Commenting on the issue, a spokesman for the authority attempted to explain the extreme delays in providing the requested information.
“We have faced difficulties in locating all of the documents relevant to your request which has contributed to the delay. We are still working to retrieve these to ensure that we can share with you as much relevant information as possible.”
The commissioner told the authority to provide a “substantive response” to the BBC request within 35 days, warning failure to do so may be dealt with as contempt of court.
Freedom of Information requests were originally created in order to ensure that public bodies can be held to account by the media, and also to offer access to legitimate information to the general public.