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  • An eye for an eye

    Posted on January 27th, 2011 admin No comments

    Remember to tick all the right boxes.

    Some of you may have seen that the people in charge of the transplant organ database have managed to get themselves into trouble with the Information Commissioner recently.

    As I was involved in a long dispute over the contents of a report into a botched organ transplant, the fact that the organ donor database was shown to be less than 100% didn’t come as much surprise to me.

    The organisation in question – NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) – look after the donor register, so that if a person dies it can sanction the use of organs from those that have passed away.

    Those of you, who like me, have ever filled in the Donor Registration form, will know that there is a section where you can either hand over 100% of yourself or you can opt for the a la carte option where you say you can have my heart but not my liver (one careful owner).

    Well it would appear that in more than 400,000 cases the NHSBT has managed to mangle up its database so that people who thought they were keeping their corneas and such like found they were recorded as being up for grabs.

    How this discrepancy in the database was established hasn’t been fully explained although the NHSBT has been told to go back and sort out the mess. You can see the undertaking [here].

    Why am I bothered about all this? Well years ago I established from the NHSBT that there were two occasions when a patient had an organ transplanted into their body only to find out that due to a clerical mix up it didn’t match their blood group.

    I got hold of the report into one of these incidents and when I wrote it up it was the Page 1 story in the Mail on Sunday.

    So I was keen to get my hands on the second one. In this case I made my application to NHS London as they had a copy of the report sent from the Royal Brompton Hospital where the botched procedure had taken place.

    Of course S.40 was used to reject my request and my initial appeal and eventually it worked its way through to the Information Commissioner.

    Essentially the key point was could the report be kept secret under S.40 (Personal Information). I wanted, and stressed this to the Commissioner, that I didn’t want the patient’s personal details but the reasons for the mistake being made.

    Well the Information Commissioner reached his decision [here] and ruled that I was right and S.40 did not apply to the report. But he put in one caveat, in that some of the report, it was considered should still be exempt, which I thought would be the personal bits.

    I waited a while after the decision and eventually NHS London e-mailed me with the redacted report [RBHH Redacted SUI report FOI Matthew Davis]. Unfortunately it has undergone severe surgery and is totally meaningless from a journalistic point of view.

    Heyho. Why should we worry? Why should we hold to account an organisation where I can see at least ten executives on £100,000-per-year or more yet they cannot sort out its most basic database for successful operation? Is it me?

    What is also worrying is the way the Commissioner hoodwinked me into thinking I had won my case only to leave me pondering yet another appeal to the Tribunal.