FOI reference: FOI/17/01285
Date received: 7 June 2017
Date responded: 11 August 2017
- The details of the discussions held by the Medical Undergraduate Group regarding medical undergraduate numbers at its meeting held on 15 May 2017 and the minutes taken at the meeting of the Medical Undergraduate Group on 15 May 2017.
While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested because an exemption under section 30(c) of FOISA (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs) of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why that exemption applies are explained below.
In response to (1) above, the details of the discussion were in the form of notes taken at round table discussions. The redacted notes are disclosed.
In response to (2) above, no formal minutes were taken and therefore there is no documentation of this type to be disclosed.
Reasons for not providing information
An exemption applies.
An exemption under section 30(c) of FOISA (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs) applies to some of the information requested. It is essential for officials to be able to meet, often in confidence, with external stakeholders on a range of issues, including both the Medical Undergraduate Group and University Medical Schools to discuss policy issues regarding the sustainability of the medical workforce from an undergraduate perspective. Disclosing the content of these meetings, particularly without the consent of stakeholders, is likely to undermine their trust in the Scottish Government and will substantially inhibit communications on this type in the future. These stakeholders will be reluctant to participate in meetings and provide their views fully and frankly if they believe that their views are likely to be made public particularly when some views relating to both undergraduate and postgraduate medical education were expressed that would not have been made in a public forum and discussions on policy direction are still on-going. It would significantly harm the Government's ability to carry out many aspects of its work, and could adversely affect its ability to gather all of the evidence it needs to make fully informed policies and decisions if this information were disclosed.
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. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption. We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate. However, there is a greater public interest in allowing Ministers and officials a private space within which to meet with appropriate external stakeholders as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government's policy position in relation to the role of undergraduate education in producing a sustainable medical workforce until the Government as a whole can adopt a policy that is sound and likely to be effective. This private space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, so that good policy decisions can be taken based on fully informed advice and evidence, such as that provided by a range of key medical and academic stakeholders, such as Board for Academic Medicine, representatives from the Medical Schools and NHSScotland Boards. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between the Scottish Government and these stakeholders, which in turn will undermine the quality of the policy and decisions making process, which would not be in the public interest.
An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) also applies to the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, i.e. names of seminar attendees, and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Schedule 1 to the Data Protection Act 1998. 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.
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
Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House