We have reported above on the Information Commissioner’s attempts to ensure that public authorities do not inappropriately disclose personal information. He is also keen to ensure that public authorities comply with appropriate requests for disclosure of information requested under the Freedom of Information Act and recently demonstrated this by threatening a public authority (the London Development Agency) with contempt of court for failing to disclose information following a freedom of information request.

The Commissioner, Christopher Graham, has expressed his concern that many public organisations are “dragging their feet” when it comes to freedom of information and he says he is determined to speed up the process of transparency. He has pledged to take a strict approach to overly-secretive authorities, warning that public officials who fail to comply with openness legislation could find themselves facing legal action.

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Graham also announced his intention to issue more information notices, compelling public bodies to supply information to the Information Commissioner's Office.

Its clear that the Information Commissioner’s Office is going to get tough with those organisations that do not comply with the Data Protection Act and the Freedom of Information Act. Information governance must now be firmly on the agenda of all NHS organisations and led at director and board level. Especially so in the light of the high number of data breaches committed by the NHS in recent years.

Mills & Reeve has free guidance for clients on our Healthcare Resource Centre which can be accessed here (under the information management section) and can offer comprehensive training to directors, senior staff and information managers to highlight the problems and point to solutions and guidance.