FOI Service

PCDC would like to outline the Freedom of Information (FOI) Service we are offering to organisations using Paul Couldrey as the named DPO for their organisation.

Paul has extensive experience in the IG arena:

  • Worked for the Police, Local Authority and NHS
  • Started working in IG in 1994
  • Currently a consultant for NHS England
  • NHS Digital Lead Adviser
  • His company has £20 million legal indemnity insurance

What our service includes:

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) outlines that any person in the world can ask your practice for any information it holds.

The PCDC service offers access to a library of guidance policies and documents to manage requests, template letters for response, and also includes a helpdesk facility to assist you with any FOIA requests received which must be responded to within 20 working days.

The service includes the following templates:

  • FOIA Policy & Handbook
  • Third Party Confidentiality Agreement
  • Audio Meeting Advice
  • Declaration of Interests Template
  • Confidentiality Agreement for Visitors
  • Tracking RFI Spreadsheet
  • Flowchart of Request Handling
  • Template – Acknowledgement Letter
  • Template – PIT Notification Letter Template
  • Template – Record of Qualified Persons Opinion under FOIA
  • Template – Disclosure Letter Template

What is the Freedom of Information Act (2000):

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 provides public access to information held by public authorities such including General Practice (defined as a public body in the Act) defined in section 1 of the Act.

It does this in two ways:

  • Public authorities are obliged to publish certain information about their activities; and
  • Members of the public are entitled to request information from public authorities.

The Act covers any recorded information that is held by a public authority in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and by UK-wide public authorities based in Scotland. 

 

Public authorities include government departments, local authorities, the NHS (including General Practice), state schools and police forces. However, the Act does not necessarily cover every organisation that receives public money. For example, it does not cover some charities that receive grants and certain private sector organisations that perform public functions.

The Act does not give people access to their own personal data (information about themselves) such as their health records or credit reference file. If a member of the public wants to see information that a public authority holds about them, they should make a subject access request under the Data Protection Act 2018.

As a public body, your practice spends money collected from taxpayers and makes decisions that can significantly affect many people’s lives. Access to information helps the public make public authorities accountable for their actions and allows public debate to be better informed and more productive.

The main principle behind freedom of information legislation is that people have a right to know about the activities of public authorities, unless there is a good reason for them not to. This is sometimes described as a presumption or assumption in favour of disclosure. The Act is also sometimes described as purpose and applicant blind.

This means that:

  • Everybody has a right to access official information. Disclosure of information should be the default – in other words, information should be kept private only when there is a good reason and it is permitted by the Act;
  • An applicant (requester) does not need to give you a reason for wanting the information. On the contrary, you must justify refusing them information;
  • You must treat all requests for information equally, except under some circumstances relating to vexatious requests and personal data. The information someone can get under the Act should not be affected by who they are. You should treat all requesters equally, whether they are journalists, local residents, public authority employees, or foreign researchers; and
  • Because you should treat all requesters equally, you should only disclose information under the Act if you would disclose it to anyone else who asked. In other words, you should consider any information you release under the Act as if it were being released to the world at large.

This does not prevent you voluntarily giving information to certain people outside the provisions of the Act.

The Act covers all recorded information held by a public authority. It is not limited to official documents and it covers, for example, drafts, emails, notes, recordings of telephone conversations and CCTV recordings. Nor is it limited to information you create, so it also covers, for example, letters you receive from members of the public, although there may be a good reason not to release them.

The Act includes some specific requirements to do with datasets. For these purposes, a dataset is a collection of factual, raw data that you gather as part of providing services and delivering your functions as a public authority, and that you hold in electronic form. Your duties in relation to datasets are explained elsewhere in this Guide, where they are relevant.

Requests are sometimes made for less obvious sources of recorded information, such as the author and date of drafting, found in the properties of a document (sometimes called meta-data). This information is recorded so is covered by the Act and you must consider it for release in the normal way.

Similarly, you should treat requests for recorded information about the handling of previous freedom of information requests (meta-requests) no differently from any other request for recorded information.

The Act does not cover information that is in someone’s head. If a member of the public asks for information, you only have to provide information you already have in recorded form. You do not have to create new information or find the answer to a question from staff who may happen to know it.


Costs:

The cost for this service is £150 (plus VAT) per organisation, for a 12 month contract.

The 12 month contract will start on the 1st of the month that you sign up. An option to renew will be discussed towards the end of the contract.

If you decide to sign up to this, an invoice would be sent to you for payment and a contract will also be sent for you to complete and return to us.