Freedom of Information
The Freedom of Information (FoI) Act 2000 provides public access to information held by public authorities which includes the NHS. This can be done in two ways:
- An obligation to publish certain information about their activities proactively to respond to requests for information.
- GP surgeries must operate a FoI publication scheme, although they only have to provide information about their NHS work. A publication scheme is a guide to the ‘classes’ of information the practice intends to routinely make available.
The Act does not give people access to their own personal data such as their health records – this should be requested as a subject access request under the Data Protection Act 2018.
Many requests for information from the practice can be dealt with in the normal course of business, with information being freely available on the practice website or within the surgery, and will therefore not be defined as a request under the FoI Act. If the request needs to be dealt with more formally, the practice will follow the ICO guidance and normally has 20 days in which to respond.
Lakenham Surgery has a publication scheme which sets out the practice’s commitment to making certain classes of information routinely available, such as policies and procedures, services provided, etc. This follows the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) Model Publication Scheme.
Commitments to our obligations under the Freedom of Information Act
- The practice will comply with the FoI Act and sees it as an opportunity to enhance public trust and confidence in the practice
- We will maintain a comprehensive ‘publication scheme’ that provides information which is readily accessible without the need for a formal FoI Act request. Documents that are made available under this scheme can be viewed on our practice website; be made available in a leaflet; or made available in hard copy format on request (although charges may apply for providing hard copies of documents)
- Seek to satisfy all FoI Act requests promptly and within 20 working days of receipt of the request and fee (where applicable). However, if necessary we will extend this timescale to give full consideration to a Public Interest test. If we do not expect to meet the deadline, we will inform the requester as soon as possible of the reasons for the delay and when we expect to have made a decision
- Continue to protect the personal data entrusted to us, by disclosing it only in accordance with the Data Protection Act 2018
- The practice will provide advice and assistance to requesters to facilitate their use of the FoI Act. We will publish our procedures and assist requesters to clarify their requests so that they can obtain the information that they require
- We will work with NHS England and the ICO to ensure that we can meet our FoI Act obligations, including the disclosure of any information that they hold on our behalf
- Apply the exemptions provided in the FoI Act and, where qualified exemptions exist, the practice will disclose the information unless the balance of public interest lies in withholding it
- The practice will consult with third parties before disclosing information that could affect their rights and interests. However, according to the FoI Act, the practice must make the final decision on disclosure
- We will charge for information requests in line with the FoI Act Fees Regulations or other applicable regulations, including the Data Protection Act 2018
- We will record all FoI Act requests and our responses, and will monitor our performance in handling requests and complaints
- Ensure that all staff are aware of their obligations under the FoI Act, and will have ready access to the practice’s Freedom of Information Policy
- Further information is available on the Gov.UK website.
- The Information Commissioner’s Office website provides full information on the Freedom of Information Act, how to request information and how to respond to information requested.
- The Information Commissioner’s Office regulations on fees.