What is the FOI Act?
The FOI Act gives everyone a general right of access to all types of recorded information held by public bodies such as NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). There are no restrictions on age or nationality and you do not even have to live within the geographical area of our CCG. The Act places an obligation on public bodies such as NHS Leeds CCG to disclose information. The Act also sets out a series of exemptions and procedural limitations on the public’s right of access and on our obligations to you.
One of the obligations placed upon public bodies is to produce and maintain a publication scheme.
Further guidance on the FOI Act and EIR can be found here.
What is the EIR?
The EIR give the public a similar right of access to environmental information, along with a similar series of exceptions to that right. These Regulations apply to all public authorities which are subject to the FOI Act.
Further guidance on the FOI Act and EIR can be found here.
I can’t find the information I want in the publication scheme
If you cannot find the information you want in our publication scheme or on our website, you are entitled under the FOI Act and EIR to make a request for the information.
We are obliged to respond to your request and generally we will supply the information you request in its entirety. We may say to you that we do not hold the information although in some circumstances all or part of the information you have requested may be exempt from disclosure and subject to various legal exemptions as described in the FOI Act (or exceptions as laid down in the EIR).
We may point you to where you can find the information you have requested if the information is readily available in our publication scheme, website or literature. We would like to point out that we are not obliged to provide information which is readily and easily available by you from elsewhere in the public domain such as leaflets, websites and our publication scheme. So we encourage you to look in our publication scheme before you make a written request for information.
If you wish to request information about yourself, then your request will be processed according to the Data Protection Act 1998.
Where to send a request for information not found in this publication scheme
If you cannot find the information you require in our publication scheme, then please either email eMBED.FOI@nhs.net or write to the Information Governance Manager, eMBED Health Consortium, Douglas Mill, Bowling Old Lane, Bradford BD5 7JR.
How should I make an FOI Act or EIR request?
When making a request you do not need to tell us about why you want this information or what you do for a living. However for us to be able to respond you must provide us with your name and either a postal or an email address. The FOI Act also stipulates that you must make your request in writing, either by letter, fax or email. It is useful if you can provide a telephone number just in case we need to clarify your request otherwise we may write to you by letter, fax or email.
You are allowed under EIR to make a request for environmental information verbally, although it will help us if you do send your request in writing in the same way. If you do make your request for environmental information verbally, it would help us if you could confirm this by email or in writing. If you do not, we may send you a transcript of your request in order to check we have this correct. In either case, just like with FOI Act requests we will need your name and email or postal address so that we can send you the information you have requested.
You do not need to worry about the differences between FOI Act and EIR: simply send in your request for information you require in writing and we will ensure we follow the appropriate legislation.
When making a FOI Act or EIR request, any specific details you can provide will help us to locate the information for you. So please be as precise as possible. If you want a specific piece of information, please give us as many facts as will narrow down our search, such as document name, reference or date range. This will enable us to provide you with just the information you want. As well as making it easier for us it will also help you to obtain the information you request sooner as otherwise we may need to clarify exactly what you want and we can refuse a request if it will take more than 18 hours to locate and identify too wide a range of information you have requested.
We are not obliged to create information if the information does not exist. This also means that we are not obliged to create opinions or judgements if these are not already recorded. We also ask that you do not mix a request for information with a complaint or a comment about the services you have received.
Guidance on making a request can be found here.
If you are unsure of any aspect of making a request our FOI Act team can advise and assist you.
Which formats can I choose?
You are entitled to the information recorded in documents, not the documents themselves. However in most cases we will send you a copy of the document containing the information you have requested. Most of our information is stored electronically and any information you request can easily and quickly be sent to you in PDF format. This is not only quicker and less costly for us but is usually more convenient for you. However you can request the information in any format such as paper copy or on DVD or CD and we will do our best to meet your request. Please note we may have to levy a change for posting large amounts of paper or creating a CD or DVD. Without payment we are not obliged to supply you with the information in that particular format and your request could be closed if you prefer not to pay and do not select another format. Please see below for more information on when we may charge you a fee.
If you request a particular dataset in electronic form, if we have such a dataset and we are the sole owner of the copyright for this dataset where reasonably practicable we will provide you with it, subject to the exemptions and exceptions from disclosure including the protection of personal data of individuals as laid down in the FOI Act, the EIR and the Data Protection Act respectively. We will also provide the dataset in a re-useable form along with an Open Government Licence for those datasets in which we own the copyright.
What will you do with my request?
We will send you an acknowledgement to confirm that we have received your request. The acknowledgement will also give you a reference number and identify whether your request falls under the FOI or EIR. The FOI Act obliges us to respond promptly so we will also indicate the latest date by which you should receive a response, defined in both the FOI Act and EIR for most requests as 20 working days from the date of receipt. For large or complex EIR requests this can be extended to 40 working days although we will inform you within 20 days if this is the case.
Once we have acknowledged your request we will then start to identify and collate the information you have requested. If we cannot determine the information you require or your request is too wide-ranging we may contact you to clarify or re-define your request although we will be happy to release as much information as possible without charging a fee. While we await clarification from you, the 20 day clock will be stopped and only re-start on receipt of your clarification. If we do request a clarification and we do not receive clarification within a certain period of time, usually a month, we will regard your request as closed.
If your request involves information related to another person or company, then we may need to consult this person or company before deciding on whether to disclose or withhold the information you have requested.
Our final response must say whether we hold the information or not, and if so the response will communicate the information you have requested, unless one or more FOI Act exemptions or EIR exceptions apply to either of these obligations.
If you request information which is routinely available, for the sake of simplicity and efficiency we might send the information without regarding your request as a formal request.
Further information on how we handle requests can be found on the Information Commissioner’s website.
Can we charge you fee?
We endeavour to make as much information as possible free of charge. This will be the case for any information we make available to download from our publication scheme. However if you request information in a certain format such as printed or photocopied papers, CD or DVD and the costs of preparing and posting in one of these formats is substantial we will contact you to request payment of the costs associated with your chosen format. We will also offer to send the information electronically at no cost. We will only contact you where the costs of printing and postage exceed £50. In such cases, our charges will be subject to a charging regime laid down by Parliament. These charges are shown in the guide to charges included in the lists and registers class. For a full list of our charges please see our schedule of fees.
There may be times when we have to inform you that we cannot identify, locate, retrieve and extract large volumes of information you have requested in a written request without making a charge for the time it will take over and above an appropriate limit for our public authority as defined by the FOI Act. This is currently set at £450 for our type of authority, which according to the rules amounts to 18.5 hours work. In such cases we will also contact you and ask you to narrow your request or pay a charge for the work involved in fulfilling the original request.
When we contact you for payment of a fee, the 20 day clock will be stopped until we receive your payment or you advise us to send you the information electronically. If we send you a fees notice and we do not hear from you or receive payment within three months, we will regard your request as closed.
Can you refuse my request?
If we do not hold the information you have requested we cannot provide it. Following the reorganisation of the NHS in April 2013, many responsibilities of the old PCTs were transferred to the newly formed CCGs. However there may be cases where the responsibility for a particular function has not been transferred to us and consequently we will not hold the related information. In such cases we will try to assist you in locating the information you have requested and suggest who you should contact. In some circumstances we may transfer your request for you. There may be other times when we do not know where this information is held and cannot help you any further.
There are circumstances laid down in the FOI Act and EIR where we may contact you to refuse your request. We may refuse all or part of your request if the information is covered by an exemption specified in the FOI Act or an exception contained within the EIR, including but not limited to the protection of personal and sensitive data as laid down by the Data Protection Act 1998. Where we have to withhold some of your request we will either provide you with a summary or a copy of the information in a redacted form. Redaction is where the withheld information has been black-lined out or removed entirely.
One of these exemptions allows us to refuse a FOI Act request for information if the information is readily available via our publication scheme. So please check our publication scheme before making a written request.
Some of these exemptions and exceptions may require us to conduct a public interest test. This is where we must decide honestly whether the public interest lies in disclosing or withholding the information. As we may require additional time to consult affected third parties and carefully decide the public interest, we may notify you that we need a reasonable period of extra time beyond the 20 working day limit to conduct this test. The FOI Act stipulates that in no case should this be longer than an additional 20 working days.
If we decide to use a FOI Act exemption or EIR exception, we will let you know which exemption or exception has been used and why it applies. If we have also conducted a public interest test we will also inform you why the public interest in withholding the information you have requested is greater than the public interest in disclosing it.
We are not obliged to comply with vexatious or repeated requests for the same information which has not changed since the last time you requested it. Vexatious requests are defined as requests intended to be annoying, disruptive or which have a disproportionate impact on our work.
The following webpage on the Information Commissioner’s website explains when we can refuse a request.
Can I re-use the information?
The information available in our publication scheme is copyrighted to NHS Leeds CCG. Under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, all information accessed through our Publication Scheme is provided for your personal use. Permission is granted to reproduce in any format for your personal and educational use free of charge, provided it is reproduced accurately and not used to mislead. Commercial copying, hiring and lending is prohibited without express permission.
If you wish to re-use any information accessed through our Publication Scheme or any information requested under FOI Act or EIR for commercial reasons, then you must ask our permission for every piece of information you wish to re-use before you do so. If we do allow you permission to re-use any such information, this may involve a licensing agreement along with a licensing fee. If any copyrighted information is allowed to be republished in any way, you must state that this information is the Copyright of NHS Leeds CCG. In all such cases please write to the Freedom of Information Lead, eMBED Health Consortium, Douglas Mill, Bowling Old Lane, Bradford BD5 7JR, describing the information you wish to re-use and the purposes you wish to re-use the information for. We will then respond to you in 20 working days with details of any conditions and/or fees as determined in line with the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005 (SI 2005 No. 1515).
This does not apply to any information where we do not own the Copyright on the Information and you must always request permission from the copyright holder.
How can I complain if I am dissatisfied?
If you are unhappy with our response to a FOI Act or EIR request or the service you have received and you wish to make a complaint or request an internal review of any decision to withhold all or part of any information you have requested, please write to the Information Governance Manager, eMBED Health Consortium, Douglas Mill, Bowling Old Lane, Bradford BD5 7JR quoting the reference number of the request. Please provide specific details of your complaint along with any supporting information.
Your complaint will be handled formally by a senior member of management not originally involved with your FOI Act or EIR request. The process will give a fresh review of all aspects of the case as necessary. We will then inform you of the outcome in writing and if the original decision is reversed we will then deal with your request once more.
If you are not content with the outcome of our internal review of a FOI Act or EIR request, you have the right to appeal to the Information Commissioner. Both the FOI Act and the EIR are regulated and enforced by the Information Commissioner whose website can be found here.
The Information Commissioner will not investigate your case unless you have been through our complaints procedure first so please contact our FOI team at eMBED.FOI@nhs.net first.