Freedom of Information Request: 0324 2019/20
I am interested in receiving the rental income the Trust has generated in the last 12 months from it’s out of hours medical services provider Badger Medical services (room releases) for Heartlands and Solihull hospitals which I understand is about 6 rooms at Heartlands hospital and Solihull.
I would like to know the rental income for each of these 2 hospitals in the last 12 months.
The Trust does hold the information you have requested, however we are withholding it under exemption 43 (commercial interests) of the Freedom of Information Act: “The Information is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any person (including the public authority holding it).”
Section 43(2) (Commercial Interests)
The Trust considers the fee charged to Badger Medical services for the use of rooms is commercially sensitive in nature because it is negotiated and agreed annually. Disclosing this information could be used by competitors to gain a significant unfair advantage when negotiating fees for similar services.
Section 43(2) is a qualified exemption and is subject to the public interest test. This means that not only does the information have to prejudice one of the purposes listed, but before the information can be withheld, the public interest in preventing that prejudice must outweigh the public interest in disclosure.
Public Interest Test
Considerations in favour of disclosure:
- The public need to know that we are spending public money wisely and getting best value, without fear or favour.
- The need for public authorities to be transparent in their dealings.
Considerations against disclosure:
- Disclosing this information would likely give providers of similar services a significant unfair advantage when bidding competitively against UHB Trust.
- It could weaken the Trust’s position as other potential suppliers or partner organisations would not have confidence that the Trust would keep sensitive financial data private.
- This could prejudice the Trust’s ability to obtain best price and value.
- The inherent public interest in helping the NHS make best use of its funds.
The Trust recognises that there is a public interest in the disclosure of information which facilitates the accountability and transparency of public bodies for decisions taken by them. However, there is also a public interest in the Trust being able to work within competitive markets where that results in a financial or resource benefit which is put to the wider public interest. Having undertaken the balancing exercise, the Trust has concluded that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the requested information having regard to the effect that the disclosure of the information would not be in the public interest.
Given that the definition of ‘public’ under the Act is considered to be the public at large, rather than just the individual applicant or a small group of people and that ‘public interest’ is not necessarily the same as what interests the public, it is considered that to release this sensitive information into the public domain is likely to result in prejudice to the commercial interests of both the Trust and Badger Medical Services, which is not outweighed by the wider public interest for disclosure.