The GMC breach the Data Protection Act in filleting my letters from the official file

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Dr Sarah Myhill MB BS, Upper Weston, Llangunllo, Knighton, Powys, Wales, UK LD7 1SL

May 5th 2010
Mr Julian Graves
Information Access Manager
General Medical Council
Regents Place
350 Euston Road
London NW1 3JN


Dear Mr Graves

Re: Information Access under the Data Protection Act 1998

Thank you for your letter of 26 April 2010 in which you enclose 44 letters comprising:

  • 39 which had not been previously disclosed to me, and
  • 5 previously disclosed

In addition you have been unable to trace two further documents which I sent.

In your letter of 26th April you state:

“I’m sorry that some of these letters were not disclosed to you as a result of your previous subject access requests”

Your letter together with the bundle of documents arrived at my office on April 29th 2010, the date of my IOP hearing, so these documents, essential to my defence, were not available to me a that Hearing.

I have three major concerns in respect of these documents:

1. I was the subject of an Interim Orders Panel hearing on 29th April, 2010. At that Hearing my past record with the GMC must be taken into account. All these letters are highly relevant to that history - they were my defence. Contained within those letters are the reasons why all allegations against me were dropped. It appears they have been withheld from the IOP so Panel members would have just read GMC account of investigations into me and not my account.

2. The GMC failed to produce these documents:

a. Under my original request under the Data Protection Act dated 22nd April, 2007.
b. Under subsequent requests made under the provisions of the same Act of Parliament.
c. Subsequent to my meeting with Jackie Smith on 12th August, 2009 at which I made her aware that they were missing from my file and reminded her in my letter of 30th August, 2009 and in a number of emails subsequent to that date and in a letter to Peter Flynn, Investigation Manager GMC acknowledged 22.12.09.

3. That you were unable to produce these documents on more than one occasion due to their removal or detachment from my records would appear to be evidence of:

a. a failure on the part of the GMC to meet one of the eight basic principles of the Act, namely to ensure that my personal information is stored in a secure manner
b. a breach of the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 so far as my request for disclosure was concerned

I should therefore be grateful if you would provide me with the following information with some urgency:

a/ The full name of the registered Data Controller for the GMC and how and where can s/he be contacted.
b/ The date on which these documents were removed from my personal file or on which they became separated or detached from the official record?
c/ Details of the purpose for which they were removed/separated and by whom?
d/ Full details of how and where these documents were stored between that date of their removal and of your letter of 26th April, 2010?
e/ Why were these documents not produced in response to my previous requests under the Data Protection Act as set out in 2 above?
f/ Confirmation that these documents were part of the official bundle made available to the Interim Orders Panel convened on 29th April, 2010? The IOP Panel take into account past history with the GMC in coming to their decision. As six previous investigations have been dropped without charges it is imperative that the panel had access to that information.

I am also concerned about the protracted delay by the GMC in responding to correspondence concerned with their duties in respect of the storage of information which falls within the provisions of the Data Protection Act.

  • On 12th August, 2009, I met with Jackie Smith at the offices of the GMC. I informed her that there appeared to be 45 letters missing from the official record.
  • On 30th August 2009, I sent Ms Smith the minutes of our meeting together with a complete list of all letters and documentation I believed missing from the GMC records and a request that they be forwarded to me. Nothing was forthcoming despite further prompting on several occasions by email.
  • On 12 December I wrote again.
  • On 22nd December, 2009, I received a reply from Peter Lynn promising that my letter would be shown to Jackie Smith. I heard no more.
  • On 24 February, 2010, I wrote again to Mr Lynn but received no reply or even acknowledgement of my letter.

Under the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 you have 40 days to produce relevant documents. I must therefore ask you to explain:

  • Why it took you from 12th August, 2009 to 26th April, 2010 to locate and produce the documents as requested?
  • Why Jackie Smith appears to have waited until my letter of 24 February 2010 to ask you to access these records?
  • Whether or not you received any Subject Access request from any quarter before my letter of 24 February, 2010?

As you may be aware, I faced the prospect of 3 Fitness to Practise Hearings between July 2007 and February 2008, all of which were cancelled. It is my belief that had the investigating officers had access to all my letters a great deal of unnecessary stress could have been avoided.

In addition, following the IOP hearing last week I am unable to prescribe any medication from BNF to my patients. This is directly harming patient care. I feel sure you will understand that if any of the information that should be in my official record has been withheld as a result of the circumstances outlined above, then it may be that the IOP have been misinformed and these sanctions applied unnecessarily.

I feel sure that you will also understand that your failure, as set out above, to respond to requests for disclosure under that Act hardly instils one with confidence that you have disclosed all relevant documents or complied with your duty to store my records securely. Both situations are in direct contravention of the current legislation. I shall be asking the Office of the Information Commissioner to provide me with details of how I can ensure that you have now disclosed all relevant correspondence and records pertaining to my official record. If you feel able to provide me with such an undertaking in writing within the next 14 days it may be that we can dispense with this formality.

I look forward to your response as a matter of urgency.

Yours sincerely

Sarah Myhill