Publication - FOI/EIR release

Correspondence regarding Cervical Cancer Screening Programme: FOI release

Published: 4 Aug 2021

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

Published:
4 Aug 2021
Correspondence regarding Cervical Cancer Screening Programme: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/202100218011
Date received: 25 Jun 2021
Date responded: 3 Aug 2021
Information requested

A copy of all briefings for Ministers from 9 March onwards regarding the errors and audits of the Cervical Cancer Screening Programme.

A copy of all email correspondence between 8 March and 28 March referencing the Cervical Cancer Screening Programme.

Response

Attached is a copy of some of the information requested. While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested.

An exemption under section s.29(1)(a) of FOISA (formulation or development of Scottish Government policy) applies to some of the information you requested.

This exemption applies because disclosure would include communication regarding the formulation or development of Scottish policy. This exemption recognises the need for officials to have a private space within which to formulate or develop Scottish policy.

This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. However, there is a greater public interest in allowing officials a private space within which to develop and formulate Scottish policy. This private space is needed to freely and effectively discuss the development of policy, including, in this instance, officials considering the evidence to determine the best approach and response to this incident, and therefore formulating the Scottish Government policy on this particular matter.

The exemption under section 30(b) (i) of FOISA (free and frank provision of advice) has been applied to some of the information you have requested.

This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to inhibit substantially, the free and frank provision of advice. This exemption recognises the need for officials to have a private space within which to provide and receive free and frank advice before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view.

This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. However, there is a greater public interest in allowing officials a private space within which to communicate. This private space is essential to ensure that a range of options and perspectives have been fully considered and evidenced so that, ultimately, final decisions can be taken based on fully informed advice and evidence. The investigation into and remedial work for the cervical incident is ongoing – disclosure of the previous free and frank provision of advice is likely to inhibit any future free and frank sharing of advice in regards to this or any other possible future concern or incident.

An exemption under section 30(b) (ii) of FOISA (free and frank exchange of views) applies to some of the information you have requested.

This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. This exemption recognises the need for officials to have a private space within which to discuss and explore options.

This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. However, there is a greater public interest in allowing officials a private space within which to communicate. This private space is essential to ensure that final decisions can be taken after a free and frank exchange of views regarding the different factors, evidence, and issues that have been identified. The investigation into and remedial work for the cervical incident is ongoing – disclosure of discussions regarding the incident is likely to inhibit any future free and frank discussions in regards to this or any other possible future incident.

An exemption under section 38(1) (b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to some of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, for example the names/contact details of individuals, certain other identifying or potentially identifying information, and certain medical information, and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Article 5(1) of the General Data Protection Regulation and in section 34(1) of the Data Protection Act 2018. This exemption is not subject to the ‘public interest test’, so we are not required to consider if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption.

An exemption under section 39(1) of FOISA (Health, Safety and the Environment) applies to some of the information requested.

The exemption applies because disclosure would be likely to cause anxiety among at least some women, particularly those who have undergone hysterectomies. This would therefore cause significant negative impact to the mental health of those women.

This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. However, there is a greater public interest in withholding some of the information due to the highly sensitive information regarding personal health. Release of some of the information you have asked for risks having an unnecessary and significant negative impact on the mental health of women, in particular causing additional and unnecessary concern to those affected by the incident, and this outweighs the public interest in the information being released.

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses.

Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG