Frequently Asked Questions
Following is answers to some of the most common questions which arose about the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Please click on a question to read its answer
- What is Freedom of Information
What is Freedom of Information?
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) came fully into force on the 1st January 2005. FOI gives you the right of access to information held by a Dudley NHS organisation, subject to a few exemptions. The exemptions protect against the disclosure of information that would be inappropriate for disclosure and include protection for personal information, information provided in confidence, commercial interests and other important interests.
What sort of information can I ask for under the FOIA?
Your right to information only relates to information held by an NHS Organisation at the time you make your request. Information held may be in various forms, for example, a paper document, computerised information, printouts, maps, microfilm, audio-visual material etc. FOIA provides a right to "information" rather than to records or documents. Although you are not required to specify any particular document, you must describe the information you are requesting in as much detail as possible. The Dudley health community publishes a wide range of information already as a requirement of FOIA and you will need to check the Publication Scheme to find out whether the information you require has already been published or if there are plans to do so.
- About our publication schemes
About our publication Schemes
The Publication Scheme is a complete guide to the information routinely published by the Organisation. It is a description of the information about the Organisation, which is made publicly available. The Scheme is reviewed at regular intervals and the operation of the scheme monitored.
It is important to the Organisation that this Scheme meets your needs and we have designed it to be a route map to assist the process of finding out information about the Organisation. The Organisation has a legal duty to adopt and maintain a Publication Scheme under Section 19 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The purpose of the Act is to promote greater openness by public authorities.
Every public authority has a duty to specify what information they publish (in terms of information 'classes'), how the information is made available, and whether it is available free of charge or upon payment. Link to: Dudley Health Community Publication Schemes
- Searching the publication schemes
Searching the Publication Schemes
The Publication Schemes are available on the Dudley Health Community website. The scheme describes the classes of information within the Publication Scheme, and some entries allow you to browse the documents within the classes to see what information is available. Having found reference to an information item, you will then be able to access it through the web site. Where direct access is not possible you will be told how the information can be obtained.
- Do I need to give a reason to see information
Do I need to give a reason to see information?
No. You do not have to give a reason WHY you want to see information, however, NHS staff may request your help to find and locate the information that you want access to, in order to establish and pinpoint exactly WHAT information you require, so that they can make this available to in you the shortest amount of time.
- Can I ask for my personal information
Can I ask for my personal information?
No. A request for personal information about yourself must be made under the Data Protection Act 1998 and not under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
- How do I describe the information I am asking for?
How do I describe the information I am asking for?
If at all possible, describe the information as fully as you can to enable the organisation to identify and locate it. Where you provide insufficient information to enable the organisation to identify or locate the information you are asking for or where your request is ambiguous, the organisation will as far as practicable provide you with assistance to enable you to describe more clearly the information you are requesting. The aim of this assistance will be to clarify the nature of the information sought and not to determine your aims or motivation for asking for the information. Where information is likely to be refused on cost grounds, the organisation will give you an indication of what information could be provided within the cost limit.
- Do I have to pay for the information?
Do I have to pay for the information?
Yes, charges may apply in respect of the search, retrieval of information and in giving effect to an expressed preference for receipt of information in accordance with the national fees regulations. In addition charges relating to disbursements, for example, copying, postage, tape recordings, cd, floppy disks, will be payable in advance, by the applicant. If you are required to make a payment for requested information you will be issued with a Fees Notice. You have 3 months in which to pay the fee. If the payment is not received by the Organisation within the 3 month period the request for information will be automatically closed. This process excludes the information listed in the Publication Schemes - any charges made within a publication scheme will be stated in the scheme.
- How do I make a request for information if I am suffering from a disability, am ill or illiterate?
How do I make a request for information if I am suffering from a disability, am ill or illiterate?
If you are unable to put your request in writing perhaps as a result of illiteracy, disability or illness, please ask another person or agency (such as the Patient Advice and Liaison Service - PALS, or the Citizens Advice Bureau) to help you or to make the request on your behalf. The Dudley Health Community will provide you with assistance, examples of which may include:
- Further explanation of your rights of access under the FOIA
- Taking a note of your request over the telephone where you are unable to read, write due to a disability, and then sending the request to you for confirmation.
- Enabling you to inspect or have the information you are requesting explained to you.
Request for further assistance within the Dudley Health Community must be addressed to the Community Freedom of Information Officer at the address provided previously, or telephone 01384 321713.
- What limits are there to the information I can ask for?
What limits are there to the information I can ask for?
Confidentiality is sometimes necessary to ensure the effectiveness of NHS organisations' decision-making and to protect commercial interests, information provided in confidence, personal information and other important interests. For such reasons, some categories of NHS information are not covered by the commitment to provide information (an exemption within the FOIA applies), where this is the case you will be informed of this following receipt of your request for information.
- What happens if the organisation does not hold the information?
What happens if the organisation does not hold the information?
The organisation may not hold the information you are asking for because the information may have been destroyed in accordance with the organisation's record retention schedule or the information may be held by another public body. In such cases, you will be informed that the organisation does not hold the information. Where the organisation believes that the information is held by another public body and that it would be appropriate to transfer your request to that other body, a transfer of your request for information may be actioned and you will be notified accordingly.
- How do I receive the information I have requested?
How do I receive the information I have requested?
You are entitled to state how you wish the information to be communicated to you. This may be written format (hard copy or electronic), in the form of a digest or summary or by inspection of the information at the Organisation by appointment on a date and at a time to be mutually agreed between you and the appropriate Freedom of Information Officer/Lead. The Organisation shall so far as reasonably practicable give effect to that preference, however, the Organisation will regard all the circumstances, including the cost of doing so. Where the Organisation determines that it is not practical to comply with your preference expressed we will notify you why this decision has been made and will comply with your request by communicating information by any means that are reasonable in the circumstances.
- Can the information I ask for be refused?
Can the information I have requested be refused?
Yes. Vexatious and repeated requests and/or applications made with the aim of frustrating the operations of the Organisation may be refused. The Organisation might also refuse to disclose information where complying with your request would exceed the appropriate limit set in the National Fees Regulations and where the information is considered to be exempt under the FOIA or where you have not paid for information within 3 months of issue of a Fees Notices sent to you. You will be given an explanation of the reasons for refusing your request for information.
- What will happen when I've made my request?
What will happen when I've made my request?
- We will endeavour to provide the information you wish to obtain within 20 working days of receipt of your request. The working day clock may be paused if the Organisation has to consider an exemption or if the Organisation is awaiting payment or further information from you.
- We will endeavour to advise you as soon as possible if we believe that we will be unable to dispatch the information to you within 20 working days.
- We may ask to you to provide us with more details so we can find the correct information.
- We will tell you if all or part of the information you have requested cannot be disclosed and will also explain to you why this information has been withheld.
- How do I make a Request For Information (RFI)?
How do I make a Request For Information (RFI)?
There are three steps in obtaining information:
- Clarify Information Type - is the information you require
made available under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 2000?
(Your personal information is not available under the FOIA, this can be accessed by the Data Protection Act 1998)
- Locating Information in the Publication Scheme - determine if we make the information available. If information is provided within a Publication Scheme it will not be made accessible by Individual Request for Information and you will be directed to the Publication Scheme to access the information.
- Making your information request:
If your request is to an Independent Practitioner (GP Surgery/Dentist/Pharmacy/Optician) you must send your written request to the named FOI Lead on their Publication Scheme.
All requests must be made in writing.
If your request is to Dudley South PCT, Dudley Beacon and Castle PCT or the Dudley Group of Hospitals NHS Trust it is preferable if you could make your request by using the Information Request Form.
You will need to be clear as to what information you require, which organisation you require the information from and to provide your name, a contact address to where you would like the information provided, and preferably a telephone number incase we need to contact you in connection with your request for information.
You can also write a letter to make a request for information. Please provide your name and full postal address (including the postcode), describing clearly the information you require and to specify which organisation you require the information from, and send to:
The Community Freedom of Information Officer
Dudley Beacon and Castle PCT
3rd Floor, St Johns House
It will be important for you to provide as much information as possible to enable the organisation to identify and locate the information you are requesting, if there is insufficient information received for the Organisation to respond appropriately to your request the Act does allow the Organisation to stop the request until further reasonable information is provided to the organisation.
- Clarify Information Type - is the information you require made available under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 2000?
- What if I am not satisfied with the response I receive from the organisation?
What if I am not satisfied with the response I receive from the Organisation?
If you have requested information from either Primary Care Trust and you are not satisfied with how your request for information has been dealt with or you are unhappy because disclosure has been refused you can contact the Community Freedom of Information Officer for an informal chat or you can make a complaint in writing to:
The Clinical Governance Department
St John's House
If you have requested information from the Dudley Group of Hospitals NHS Trust and you are not satisfied with how your request for information has been dealt with or you are unhappy because disclosure has been refused you can contact the Community Freedom of Information Officer for an informal chat or you can make a complaint in writing to:
The Information Development Manager
Russells Hall Hospital
If you have requested information from an Independent Practitioner (GP Surgery, Dentist, Optician or Pharmacy) and you are not satisfied with how your request for information has been dealt with or you are unhappy because disclosure has been refused you must contact the named Freedom of Information lead stated on their PUBLICATION SCHEME.
Following this, if you are still unhappy with the service you have received you can contact the Information Commissioner's Office.
- Data Protection
For information of how the Dudley NHS Health Community deals with data protection please follow the link: Privacy & Data Protection
Personal data collected on the Information Access Request under The Freedom of Information Act form will be used to process requests for information (RFI's), monitor Organisational performance in compliance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and for identification of vexatious or repeated requests.