What procedure? (Part Two)
In response to my email to the GCC telling them about the breach of confidentiality and/or Data Protection Act, I received a prompt reply:
I am writing in response to your email dated 29 June 2009. I have brought your email to the urgent attention of the Chief Executive & Registrar with regard to the use of your personal data in the manner you describe. I will address your query with regard to the notification we sent to the chiropractors you submitted a complaint against.
I can confirm that the General Chiropractic Council has sent preliminary notification to all the chiropractors you submitted a complaint against. This was not the notification required by section 20(9)(a) of the Chiropractors Act 1994, which is sent either when a statement of evidence is received from the complainant or the complainant has confirmed that they wish to proceed with their complaint on the basis of a letter of complaint.
The General Chiropractic Council decided to give preliminary notification to all the chiropractors against whom you submitted a complaint for a number of reasons. It was brought to our attention by a number of sources that the complaints you submitted to the General Chiropractic Council were already in the public domain. As a result of this there was much speculation amongst the profession and this lead to concern and anxiety amongst a number of chiropractors. We can confirm that even before your complaint was received, we were receiving enquiries from chiropractors as to whether they were subject of a complaint received These calls continued after receipt of your complaint.
Normally when a complaint is made to the Investigating Committee, the only individuals aware of the complaint are the complainant, the relevant GCC staff, the Investigating Committee and its solicitor when relevant. A chiropractor is not normally aware of a complaint until formal notification is given under section 20(9)(a) of the Chiropractors Act 1994. You will appreciate therefore that the circumstances surrounding your complaint are somewhat different.
The decision was taken to send preliminary notification to all the chiropractors concerned to end the widespread speculation that existed with regard to your complaint.
Thank you for confirming that you do not wish to make a statement of evidence and that you wish to proceed with your complaint on the basis of the information you have submitted to date.
We are currently processing all of the information you provided on 15 June 2009 in respect of your complaint. We will not be notifying the relevant chiropractors of your complaint in accordance section 20(9)(a) of the Chiropractors Act 1994, until such time as we have been able to confirm with you that the information we have downloaded from the electronic files you have sent is correctly attributed to each chiropractor against whom you have made a complaint.
We will need to agree with you how this outcome may best be achieved. I will be writing to you at the earliest opportunity in this regard.
Should you have any questions, or require any additional information, do please contact me.
Specialist Officer (Regulation)
On behalf of the Investigating Committee
Thank you for your letter dated 29 June 2009.
I note you sent a ‘preliminary notification’ to all chiropractors I complained about and this notification was not that required by section 20 (9) (a) of the Act.
I my email dated 29 June 2009, I asked what procedure you were following in issuing these ‘preliminary notifications’, but I note that you state that it was as a result of a decision taken by the GCC. Please confirm under what authority this decision and action were taken.
I am confused by your reasoning behind this decision. You talk about speculation, but also acknowledge that the complaints were in the public domain. Please note that the complaints were not in the public domain prior to submission to the GCC.
However, after they were in the public domain, it was open to anyone who was aware of this to check if they were on the list and what my complaints were. If any chiropractor was not aware that the list was in the public domain, then they could not have been concerned. Therefore, I do not understand how your preliminary notification ended any ‘widespread speculation’.
I am disappointed that you did not see fit to inform me of your decision and action. This is particularly disappointing considering the events of the last week or so.
I would be grateful if you could send me a copy of one of the notifications (if the same body text was sent to all chiropractors) or copies of the different notifications (if there were different versions).
I am also confused by your seventh paragraph concerning the correct attribution of the website files to chiropractor. In my complaint, I listed chiropractors grouped by their clinic and associated website, giving the URL of that website. The website files I sent you were in directories named with the corresponding website name (other than the four websites I informed you about in my email of 14 June 2009 that redirected to different URLs). I therefore do not know what confirmation you require from me.
In a separate email from Margaret Coats, she emphasised:
Please be assured that the GCC shares your concerns about this matter.
Glad to hear it — it remains to be seen if their actions reflect this concern.