The role of the Freedom of Information Act in your complaint

What is the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2000?

The FOI Act allows you to find out information held by public sector organisations that has nothing to do with your personal information.
The FOI Act is not restricted to the NHS. It covers all public sector organisations.

If you’re interested in reading more about the FOI Act, please click in this link

Can I find out any information using the FOI Act?

Unfortunately, no.  It has to be information that is already available to the public or it is in the public interest for the  information to made public.
The act has sections or restrictions in case it may not be in the public interests to know this information.

What information is exempt from the public interest test under the FOI Act?

  • Your Personal information.  As that is covered by the Subject Access Request ( SAR) of the General Data Protection Regulation. More commonly referred to as the GDPR.
  • Information that is already widely available to the public eg in the annual reports of public bodies.
  • Information relating to national security.
  • Information held in relation to court proceedings and court records.
  • Information told in confidence to a public authority.

The wish list of public bodies of the restrictions of the FOI act?

Is the information already available?

if your request has already been already published, the FOI response should let you to know where to find the published information. Alternatively, you could search via Google or,

What does FOI cost?

the FOI is free but your request cannot be so time-consuming that the organisation’s staff labour costs exceed more than £450 per request.

Why should I make an FOI request?

As you may, for example, wish to find out:

  • if your local NHS Hospital has made the same treatment error that they made with you?
  • what is the annual training budget for your GP surgery?
  • or how many staff members wear blue shoes on the second Tuesday of every month?

Is the FOI act of any use to my complaint?

It may not be a useful tool for your initial complaint but it may prove to be of use if you need to attend a local resolution meeting or NHS Mediation. Or if suspect the complaint report contained inaccuracies, inconsistencies to support a confirmational bias.

What questions should my FOI ask?

  • Ask yourself what do I want to achieve with this information?
  • What questions do you want answered?
  • How can i phrase my question to increase the likelihood of the request receiving an answer.
  • so try to …
    • Be specific. For example, a really specific request would be ….
    • It may take two or three more requests for your questions to be answered.
    • Remember this is a request for information, not documents.
    • Make sure that your request will not cost more than £450 staff time to research.

    What now?

    • personalise the FOI template letter.  Click this link to open the FOI template for FtPO
    • add the questions under the FOI Act that you want answered.
    • email or send it via signed for mail to the CEO of the relevant NHS department.

    how long do they have to respond?

    The NHS Organisation has 1 calendar month from the day the acknowledged the request. Unless they require clarification. Then the 1 calendar month deadline will only start from the day they have received your explanation.

    Breaches of the GDPR and FOI requests by NHS complaints departments are sometimes the only ammunition you will have against the might of the NHS. Use this power to shift the balance of power.

    The link to the freedom of information template document. FOI template for FtPO

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