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Who can request information?
From January 2005, any individual, anywhere in the world, will be able to make a request to a practice for information. An applicant is entitled to be informed in writing, by the practice, whether the practice holds information of the description specified in the request and if that is the case, have the information communicated to him. An individual can request information, regardless of whether he/she is the subject of the information or affected by its use.
How should requests be made?
(i) be made in writing (this can be electronically e.g. email/fax)
(ii) state the name of the applicant and an address for correspondence (iii) describe the information requested
The Practice will respond within 20 working days. Where a fee is required (see below), the deadline will be extended until the fee is paid.
How will the information be provided?
The applicant can request a copy of the information, ask to inspect the information or request a summary of the information. The practice is not obliged to comply with repeated or vexatious requests for information. The practice can refuse to supply identical or substantially similar information to any one person if a reasonable time has not passed since the previous request.
If a member of the public requests information, but their request is unclear and the practice has to contact the applicant to clarify the information requested, does this affect the 20 day rule?
Yes. If the practice has to contact an applicant to gain further information regarding the content of the request, then the 20 day response period is deemed to have started when the practice are quite clear of the information they are being asked to provide, not from the time of the original request.
What is the process if GPs do not want to disclose information?
GPs can only refuse to comply with the Act if one of the exemptions applies (see question 11).
GPs will issue a refusal notice to the person requesting the information. This refusal notice will state on what grounds the GP is refusing to disclose.
The refusal notice will also state what the appeals procedure is for a requestor, should he/she wish to contest the decision.
What if the information is already readily available?
If the Practice publish data we will refer requests to the material already published. The majority of information requested is alreadycovered in the Practice Publication Scheme.
What information can GPs withhold?
This includes but is not limited to:
If the practice needs time to consider whether a public interest test applies, then the 20 day rule is extended for a reasonable period.
What is a vexatious or repeated request?
The Freedom of Information Act also allows practices to refuse to fulfil a request for information in cases where it is deemed to be ‘vexatious’ or ‘repeated’.
A request maybe vexatious if:
· The applicant makes clear his or her intention is for the purpose of annoying the practice in retaliation/annoyance then this would be grounds for refusal.
· The request does not have any serious purpose or value.
· The request can fairly be characterised as obsessive or manifestly unreasonable.
What is the difference between disclosures under the Data Protection Act and the Freedom of Information Act?
Put simply, the Data Protection Act covers personal data, the Freedom of Information Act covers any other information held by the practice e.g. procedures, governance etc.
Will the Practice charge fees for access to information?
The Practice will not charge fees for access to information unless it costs more than £450 to retrieve and collate the information. If the cost of providing the information is estimated to cost over £450 then the Practice is not obliged to provide the information, we will refuse to comply or charge an appropriate fee of up to £25 per hour per staff member involved.
We will charge reasonable costs for copying, printing, postage and other disbursements.
We will inform the applicant of the costs before providing the information, and the information will be withheld until the fee is received. If the fee has not been received within three months of notification then the request will be treated as lapsed.
Where can I access further information?
Further information is available online at the following websites:
Information Commissioners Website:
NHS Freedom of Information Website:
Department of Constitutional Affairs guidance:
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 Regulations: www.legislation.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts2000/20000036.htm
Government White Paper Your Right to Know:
What is the Publication Scheme?
This is basically a list or index of:
· the types of information that the practice holds
· a description of how it can be obtained
· an explanation of any charges that might apply (regulated by the Act)
· an explanation of the types of information that the GP holds but cannot make available (and why).