2.1 Policy Statement
The Trust will use all appropriate and necessary means to ensure that it complies with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and associated Codes of Practice.
2.2 General Rights of Access
With effect from the 1st January 2005, the Freedom of Information Act gave a general right of access to recorded information held by the Trust, subject to certain conditions and exemptions contained within the Act. Simply, any person making a request in writing to the Trust for information is entitled:
to be informed in writing whether the Trust holds the information described in the request (this is referred to as ‘the duty to confirm or deny'), and
if the Trust does hold the information, to have that information communicated to them.
These provisions are fully retrospective, in that if the Trust holds information produced prior to the 1st January 2005, it must provide it. The Trust will maintain the procedures and systems that are in place to facilitate access by the public to recorded information.
A request for information under the general rights of access must;
be received in writing (this can be via letter, email or the Online Request Form on the Trust website),
state the name of the applicant and an address for correspondence (an email address will suffice),
describe the information requested.
The Trust will make reasonable efforts to contact the applicant for additional information pursuant to their request should further clarification be required.
The Trust has established and developed systems and procedures to process requests arising from the introduction of general rights of access on 1st January 2005.
2.3 Conditions & Exemptions
The Trust will disclose information wherever possible. However, in certain cases information cannot be supplied in full or in part if one of the exemptions outlined in the Freedom of Information Act has to be applied. See Appendix A. For example; where in certain limited circumstances, it will be necessary to preserve confidentiality and/or where it is not in the public interest to disclose the information requested.
If possible, the Trust will supply the information requested with the exempt information removed. In any case where information is exempt from disclosure, the Trust will specify which exemption is being claimed and why. See Section 2.7. All requests for information will be carefully considered on their own merits and with close regard to the public interest. The identity of the requester will not be a factor when considering the information for release.
Part of the duty of the Trust it to confirm or deny that the requested information is held. The duty to confirm or deny is itself, potentially subject to certain conditions and exemptions. The duty to confirm or deny does not arise where the Trust:
reasonably requires further information in order to identify and locate the information requested, and has informed the applicant of this requirement
where the Trust is claiming an exemption under the Act and confirmation of whether the Trust holds the requested information would in itself be subject to an exemption
For instance, Section 41 of the Act provides an absolute exemption for information provided in confidence. If to confirm or deny the holding of that information would itself constitute an actionable breach of confidence, then the duty to confirm or deny does not arise. In many cases, however it may be possible to confirm or deny the holding of information without breaching a duty of confidence.
The duty to comply with a request for information does not arise if a fees notice has been issued to an applicant and the fee has not been paid within the period of three months, beginning on the day on which the fees notice is given to the applicant. Please refer to Section 2.4 Publication Scheme, Charges & Fees.
The duty to comply with a request for information does not arise if the Trust estimates that the cost of compliance with the request would exceed the Appropriate Limit as defined by Section 12(1) of the Act. The Trust will work with applicants to keep compliance costs to a minimum but reserves the right to either (a) refuse or (b) charge for the communication of information that exceeds this limit. Please refer to Section 2.4 Publication Scheme, Charges & Fees.
Further guidance on compliance with the duty to confirm or deny can be obtained from The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) and specifically via this link: Link
2.3.1 Vexatious Requests
The Trust is not obliged to comply with a request for information if the request is vexatious. There is no definition of a vexatious request with the Act, however Section 14(1) is designed to protect public authorities by allowing them to refuse any requests which have the potential to cause a disproportionate or unjustified level of disruption, irritation or distress.
The emphasis on protecting public authorities’ resources from unreasonable requests was acknowledged by the Upper Tribunal in the case of Information Commissioner vs Devon County Council & Dransfield  UKUT 440 (AAC), (28 January 2013) when it defined the purpose of section 14 as follows;
‘Section 14…is concerned with the nature of the request and has the effect of disapplying the citizen’s right under Section 1(1)…The purpose of Section 14…must be to protect the resources (in the broadest sense of that word) of the public authority from being squandered on disproportionate use of FOIA…’ (paragraph 10).
Furthermore, ICO guidance states that public authorities should not regard Section 14(1) as something which is only to be applied in the most extreme circumstances, or as a last resort. Rather, they would encourage authorities to consider its use in any case where it is believed the request is disproportionate or unjustified.
The ICO has concluded that Parliament intended Section 14(1) to have its ordinary meaning i.e. likely to cause distress or irritation, literally to vex a person to whom it is directed. When considering whether a request is vexatious, the Trust will take into account and document the following factors:
Does the request/s convey a significant burden in terms of expense and distraction? (Usually in excess of the Appropriate Limit) See Section 2.4.
Can it be evidenced that the request is intended to cause disruption or annoyance?
Does the request have the effect of harassing the Trust and/or its staff?
Can the request otherwise fairly be characterised as obsessive or manifestly unreasonable?
Does the request lack any serious purpose or value?
Does the information requested lack an obvious public interest in it disclosure?
Where evidence is held to prove that three or more of the above can be answered yes, the request will be considered vexatious.
Where the Trust has previously complied with a request for information which was made by any person, or by a number of persons believed to be working collaboratively, it is not obliged to comply with a subsequent identical or substantially similar request from that person or group of persons, unless a reasonable interval has elapsed between compliance with the previous request and the making of the current request. For the purposes of this Policy, a period of 60 calendar days is determined as a reasonable interval.
Where the Trust has responded to an earlier request by means of a refusal notice, it is not necessary for the Trust to issue a new refusal notice for later identical of substantially similar requests. The Trust will log all requests for information for monitoring purposes and will be able to identify repeated or vexatious requests.
Further guidance can be found here:
2.4 Publication Scheme Charges & Fees
The Trust has adopted the model publications scheme developed by the Information Commissioner’s Office and revised in 2013. See Section 4.8.
The Trust’s Publication Scheme is available via the Trust’s website and details the information that the Trust publishes at that point in time. The scheme provides details of:
It will be subject to regular review in terms of content and will be formally reviewed, at least annually.
2.4.1 Information in the Publication Scheme
The Trust will generally not charge for information that it has chosen to publish in its Publication Scheme, where this is accessed via the Trust website.
However, charges may be levied for hard copies, multiple copies or copying on to media such as a CD-ROM or flash-drive. The Publication Scheme and the procedures that support this Policy will provide further guidance on charging.
In all cases where the Trust chooses to charge for information, whether published through the Publication Scheme or provided directly following a request, a written fees notice will be issued to the applicant as required. Applicants will be required to pay any fees within a period of three months beginning with the day on which the fees notice is given to them. The information will be provided only after payment.
Section 102 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 adds new provisions to FOIA (in particular sections 11 and 19) regarding datasets. A dataset is a collection of factual information in electronic form to do with the services and functions of the authority that is neither the product of analysis or interpretation, nor an official statistic and has not been materially altered. Further guidance can be found here:
The Trust will as part of its Publication Scheme routinely make available datasets necessary to fulfil all legal and regulatory obligations. Where, following a request a new data set is published, the responsibility of its maintenance will fall to the Manager of the Trust department from which it was sourced.
2.4.3 The Re-Use Of Information
The re-use of information that the Trust has chosen to publish via its publications scheme, unless otherwise specified is made available under the Open Government Licence Version 2:
2.4.4 Information not in the Publication Scheme
The Freedom of Information Act and the associated Fees Regulations stipulate that the Trust cannot levy a fee for information unless there is a statutory basis for doing so, or the amount of time taken to locate the information exceeds the Appropriate Limit (18 hours/£450).
However the Trust is permitted to charge for disbursements related to the provision of information and any reformatting requested by the applicant, provided it ensures that applicants are aware of any charges which may be made.
Charges will not generally be made for any information accessed via our website. For any information which is provided in hard copy and where there is no statutory provision for charges our rates for photocopying, reformatting and postage will normally be as follows:
A4 black and white: 10p per printed side
A3 black and white: 20p per printed side
A4 colour: 50p per printed side
A3 colour: £1.00 per printed side
And other large sheets charges calculated on request.
To UK and Ireland: £1 per printed side
Other destinations by agreement in advance.
Print-Outs from a PC:
Black and White: 10p per printed side
Colour: 50p per printed side.
Photo Quality Paper Prints:
£1 per printed side
£1.00 per disk.
£15.00 per drive.
At the prevailing Royal Mail recorded delivery rates.
Occasionally it may be necessary for the Trust to purchase equipment for the purposes of making redactions to information for publication following a Freedom of Information request, where such costs will be incurred; this cost will be charged to the applicant before the information will be provided.
Where there is a request for a special format for disclosure of information the Trust will as far as reasonably practicable comply with this request. Where in compliance the Trust will incur a cost, this cost will be charged to the applicant before the information will be provided.
The Trust, at its own discretion, will determine to waive all costs under £5 in respect of a single request made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000; however, above this sum full disbursement costs will be charged. The Trust may also decide to waive or reduce any chargeable fees for some groups, such as community groups or local charities.
2.4.5 The Appropriate Limit
The Government has maintained that cost should not be a barrier to someone wishing to request information and that charging a fee should not normally feature in the request process. Only in exceptional circumstances, where the cost of providing the information is estimated to exceed the appropriate limit laid-down within the Act of £450, will a written fees notice be issued. The appropriate limit cost is calculated at £25 per hour per person. In effect, where it will take in excess of 18 hours to comply with a request, the appropriate limit will be exceeded.
It is the responsibility of the Departmental Information Guardian or their designated Nominee to estimate the cost of the request, supported as necessary by the Information Governance Team, before the tasks of compiling the information is commenced.
Where it is identified by the Information Governance Team that an information request initially appears to be of a scale which may take in excess of the £450 limit, or subsequently by the Departmental Information Guardian or their designated Nominee, a request for an estimate of the time required to provide the information will be made to the Departmental Information Guardian/s responsible for the information requested. The estimate must be provided to the Information Governance Team as soon as possible.
The activities which can be taken into account when making this calculation are limited to the following:
determining whether the information is held;
locating the information, or a document containing it;
retrieving the information, or a document containing it; and
extracting the information from a document containing it.
Activities which cannot be taken into account when calculating the appropriate fees limit:
Staff time taken, or likely to be taken, in removing any exempt information in order to leave the information that is to be disclosed, often referred to as ‘redaction’, cannot be included as part of the time estimate.
Where the estimate has determined that the appropriate limit will be exceeded, the process for requesting and dealing with payment is as follows:
The applicant will be informed at the earliest opportunity that the Trust estimates that the provision of the information requested will take in excess of the appropriate limit, as defined by the Act. This will be by way of a written fees notice. Applicants will be required to pay any fees within a period of three months, beginning on the day on which the fees notice is issued. The fee charged is calculated at a flat rate of £25 per person, per hour. VAT will only be charged if the requested information is being obtained from another source that is not the Trust, such as a contractor.
2.4.6 Aggregation of Requests
When the Trust is estimating whether the appropriate limit is likely to be exceeded, it can include the costs of complying with two or more requests, if the conditions below can be satisfied. The requests are:
made by one person, or by different persons who appear to the Trust to be acting in concert or in pursuance of a campaign;
made for the same or similar information; and
received by the public authority within any period of 60 consecutive working days.
All fees notices will be issued as soon as possible following receipt of a request for information and in any case, within 20 working days. The working days in the period from when the applicant received the fees notice to when the Trust receives cleared funds in payment, will be disregarded for the purpose of calculating the time limit for compliance with requests.
2.5 Time Limits for Compliance with Requests
The Trust will maintain systems and procedures to ensure that the organisation complies with its duties to respond within 20 working days of receipt of a valid request. All staff will be required to comply with the requirements of these procedures.
The 20 working day period commences on the working day following receipt of the request, unless further information from the applicant is required to reasonably identify the information requested. Section 10(6) of the Act provides that:
1.—(3)Where a public authority—
(a) reasonably requires further information in order to identify and locate the information requested, and
(b) has informed the applicant of that requirement,
the authority is not obliged to comply with subsection (1) unless it is supplied with that further information.
This effectively means that where the Trust needs more details to identify and locate the requested information and has contacted the applicant for further clarification, the date of receipt will therefore be deemed to be the day after the Trust receives the necessary clarification.
If the Trust chooses to apply an exemption to any information, or to refuse a request as it appears to be vexatious or repeated, a refusal notice shall be issued within 20 working days of the date of receipt, informing the applicant of this decision.
Where the Trust is engaging a ‘qualified exemption’ to the information being requested, the 20 working days may be extended by upto an additional 20 working days to allow the Trust to undertake a public interest test. See Appendix G.
Section 10(3) enables an authority to extend the 20 working day limit up to a ‘reasonable’ time in any case where;
it requires more time to determine whether or not the balance of the public interest lies in maintaining an exemption; or
it needs further time to consider whether it would be in the public interest to confirm or deny whether the information is held.
As section 10(3) only permits extensions for further consideration of the public interest, the additional time cannot be used to determine whether the exemptions themselves are engaged.
2.6 Means by which information will be conveyed
When an applicant, on making their request for information, expresses a preference for communication by any one or more of the following means, namely the provision to the applicant of a:
copy of the information in permanent form or in another form acceptable to the applicant;
reasonable opportunity to inspect a record containing the information;
digest or summary of the information in permanent form or in another form acceptable to the applicant.
The Trust shall, so far as reasonably practicable, give effect to that preference in accordance with the Act.
In deciding whether it is reasonably practicable to communicate information by a particular means, the Trust will consider all the circumstances, including the cost of doing so. If it is decided that it is not reasonably practicable to abide by the applicant’s preference, they will be notified of the reasons and will be provided with the information by any other means considered appropriate under the circumstances.
The Trust may make a charge as specified defined in Section 2.4.
The Trust will maintain systems and procedures to monitor the provision of information arising from requests under the Act.
2.7 Refusal of Requests
The Trust can refuse to provide the information requested if either it:
i) applies an exemption as illustrated in Appendix A;
ii) has issued a fees notice and the fee has not been paid;
iii) can demonstrate that the request for information is vexatious or repeated;
If the Trust chooses to refuse a request for information under any of the above clauses, the applicant will be informed of the reasons for this decision within the time limits specified in Section 2.5. The applicant will also be informed of the procedures for challenging the decision of the Trust not to provide the information. See Section 2.14.
The refusal notice will:
If applying a qualified exemption the Trust will, either in the notice or a separate notice given within such a time as is reasonable in the circumstances, state the reasons for claiming:
that, in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exemption, outweighs the public interest in disclosing whether the Trust holds the information, and/or
that, in all circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.
The statement should not involve the disclosure of information which would itself be exempt information.
The Trust will keep a record of all notices issued to refuse requests for information.
2.8 Duty to provide advice & assistance
Section 16 of the Act, establishes the duty on the Trust to provide advice and assistance, as far as it is reasonable to expect the Trust to do so, to anyone who is considering, or has made, a request for information to it.
The Trust will ensure that the systems and procedures that are deployed to meet the duty also conform to the Code of Practice.
2.9 Transferring Requests for Information
A request can only be transferred where the Trust receives a request for information which it does not hold, within the meaning of the Act but which is held by another public authority. For example, a commissioning body. If the Trust is in receipt of a request and holds some of the information requested, a transfer can only be made in respect of the information it does not hold (but is held by another public authority). The Trust recognises that "holding" information includes holding a copy of a record produced or supplied by another person or body (but does not extend to holding a record on behalf of another person or body).
Upon receiving the initial request for information, the Trust will always process it in accordance with the Act in respect of such information relating to the request as it holds. The Trust will also advise the applicant that it does not hold part of the requested information, or all of it, whichever applies. Prior to doing this, the Trust must be certain as to the extent of the information relating to the request which it holds itself.
If the Trust believes that some or all of the information requested is held by another public authority, the Trust will consider what would be the most helpful way of assisting the applicant with their request. In most cases this is likely to involve:
contacting the applicant and informing them that the information requested may be held by another public authority;
suggesting that the applicant re-applies to the authority which the original authority believes to hold the information;
providing him or her with contact details for that authority.
All transfers of requests will take place as soon as is practicable and the applicant will be informed as soon as possible once this has been done. Where the Trust is unable either to advise the applicant that it holds, or may hold, the requested information or to facilitate the transfer of the request to another authority (or considers it inappropriate to do so) it will consider what advice, if any, it can provide to the applicant to enable them to pursue their request.
2.10 Consultation with Third Parties
The Trust recognises that in some cases, the disclosure of information pursuant to a request may affect the legal rights of a third party, for example where information is subject to the common law duty of confidence or where it constitutes ‘personal data’ within the meaning of the Data Protection Act 1998 (the DPA). Unless an exemption provided for in the Act applies in relation to any particular information, the Trust will be obliged to disclose that information in response to a request.
Where a disclosure of information cannot be made without the consent of a third party (for example, where information has been obtained from a third party and in the circumstances the disclosure of the information without their consent would constitute an actionable breach of confidence), the Trust will consult that third party with a view to seeking their consent to the disclosure, unless such a consultation is not practicable, for example because the third party cannot be located or because the costs of consulting them would be disproportionate. Where the interests of the third party which may be affected by a disclosure do not give rise to legal rights, consultation may still be appropriate.
Where information constitutes ‘personal data’ within the meaning of the DPA, the Trust will have regard to section 40 of the Act which makes detailed provision for cases in which a request relates to such information and the interplay between the Act and the DPA in such cases.
The Trust will undertake consultation where:
the views of the third party may assist the authority to determine whether an exemption under the Act applies to the information requested; or
the views of the third party may assist the authority to determine where the public interest lies.
Consultation will be unnecessary where:
the public authority does not intend to disclose the information by relying on some other legitimate ground under the terms of the Act;
the views of the third party can have no effect on the decision of the authority, for example, where there is other legislation preventing or requiring the disclosure of this information;
no exemption applies and so under the Act's provisions, the information must be provided.
Where the interests of a number of third parties may be affected by a disclosure, and those parties have a representative organisation which can express views on behalf of those parties, the Trust will, if it considers consultation appropriate, consider that it would be sufficient to consult that representative organisation. If there is no representative organisation, the Trust may consider that it would be sufficient to consult a representative sample of the third parties in question.
The fact that the third party has not responded to consultation does not relieve the Trust of its duty to disclose information under the Act, or its duty to reply within the time specified in the Act. In all cases, it is for the Trust, not the third party (or representative of the third party) to determine whether or not information should be disclosed under the Act.
A refusal to consent to disclosure by a third party does not, in itself, mean information should be withheld.
2.11 Disclosure of Staff Information
If you are seeking information about yourself, you cannot do so under the Freedom of Information Act. There are exemptions in the Act for data about the person making the request, because individuals have a right of access to data about themselves under the Data Protection Act.
Certain limited categories of information about individuals can be released to third parties in response to a Freedom of Information request. The Information Commissioner has indicated that it is reasonable to release:
Basic details about staff, such as name, job title, responsibilities and work contact details. The Trust already publishes much of this information,
The salaries and business expenses of very senior staff, and grades of more junior staff.
Information about decisions and actions taken by individuals in an official or work capacity. This is fundamental to the accountability aspect of Freedom of Information. For example, if a staff member's name appears as the author or recipient of a work-related letter or email which has to be released, the identity of the author or recipient will also be released.
In certain situations, the Trust may be able to withhold information in the above categories. For example, the Trust could refuse to release a staff member's contact details or information about decisions made by them if disclosure would be likely to endanger their health or safety.
Other types of personal information will not normally be released without the permission of the person who is the subject of the data. Doing so would be likely to contravene the Data Protection Principles set down in the Data Protection Act 1998, and would therefore be subject to exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act.
Please refer to Appendix C.
The Trust would make all staff aware that any information held on or in personal devices, personal email accounts etc, which was created, held or shared in an official capacity, must be disclosed to The Information Governance Department, if requested as part of a Freedom of Information request.
2.12 Public Sector Contracts
When entering into contracts the Trust will refuse to include contractual terms which purport to restrict the disclosure of information held by the Trust and relating to the contract beyond the restrictions permitted by the Act. Unless an exemption provided for under the Act is applicable in relation to any particular information, the Trust will be obliged to disclose that information in response to a request, regardless of the terms of any contract.
When entering into contracts with public or non-public authority contractors, the Trust may be under pressure to accept confidentiality clauses so that information relating to the terms of the contract, its value and performance will be exempt from disclosure. The Trust will reject such clauses wherever possible. Where, under exceptional circumstances, it is necessary to include non-disclosure provisions in a contract, the Trust will agree with the contractor a schedule of the contract which clearly identifies information which should not be disclosed and include provision that The Trust will be responsible for determining in its absolute discretion whether any of the content of the contract is exempt from disclosure in accordance with the provisions of the FOIA.
Any acceptance of such confidentiality provisions must be for good reasons and capable of being justified in the public interest and to The Information Commissioner.
It is for the Trust to disclose information pursuant to the Act, and not the contractor. The Trust will take steps to protect from disclosure by the contractor, information which the authority has provided to the contractor which would clearly be exempt from disclosure under the Act, by appropriate similar contractual terms. In order to avoid unnecessary secrecy, any such constraints will be drawn as narrowly as possible and according to the individual circumstances of the case. Apart from such cases, the Trust will not impose terms of secrecy on contractors.
2.13 Accepting Information in Confidence from Third Parties
The Trust will only accept information from third parties in confidence if it is necessary to obtain that information in connection with the exercise of any of the authority's functions and it would not otherwise be provided.
The Trust will not agree to hold information received from third parties ‘in confidence’ which is not confidential in nature. Again, acceptance of any confidentiality provisions must be for good reasons, be in the public interest and be capable of being justified to the Information Commissioner.
2.14 Internal Review
The Act gives rights of public access to information held by public authorities. The Code of Practice issued under Section 45 of the Act recommends that each public authority should have in place a procedure for dealing with complaints made in relation to the handling of requests for information. In this context the terms ‘procedure for dealing with complaints’ and ‘internal review’ are to be treated as one and the same.
The Trust has developed and implemented a procedure for dealing with complaints about the discharge of the duties of the Trust under the Act, including the handling of requests for information. This can be found in Appendix I.
The procedure will refer applicants to the right to apply to the Information Commissioner if they remain dissatisfied with the conduct of the Trust following attempts at local resolution of their complaint.
2.15 Records Management
The Trust will have a separate policy with supporting systems and procedures that will ensure compliance with the Lord Chancellor’s Code of Practice on the management of records and the Department of Health’s guidance Records Management: NHS Code of Practice.
The policy and associated procedures will address issues of active records management, i.e. creation, keeping, document markings, maintenance and disposal, according to the requirements that the law places upon the Trust.
NB. Freedom of Information requests will be disposed-of following the third anniversary of full disclosure to the requestor. If information is redacted or the information requested is not disclosed, the minimum retention period is 10 years.