Freedom Of Information Act 2000
The Freedom of Information Act is intended to reflect a political shift from a culture of secrecy in public administration to one of openness. The underlying principle is that all information held by a public authority should be freely available except for a small number of tightly defined exempt items. It seeks to balance three rights:
- The right to information
- The right to confidentiality
- The right to effective public administration
The general principle is that openness is the default and that there must be good reasons for withholding information. It is based on similar legislation in many developed countries, particularly the United States and the Irish Republic
The Act gives members of the public the right to be told whether requested information exists and the right to receive that information. It sets out exemptions from that right and places a number of obligations on public authorities. It is fully retrospective so it includes information we already possess. The Act is fully enforced by the Information Commissioner and became effective from January 2005.
From the NHS perspective the Act embodies much of what is already good practice as set out in the NHS Code of Openness. It supplements and complements the Data Protection Act and is qualified by our confidentiality codes. Many public bodies have already implemented the Act and, as a staging post to full implementation, NHS organisations are required to produce 'Publication Schemes' approved by the Information Commissioner.
This Publication Scheme is a complete guide to the information routinely published by Trust. It is a description of the information about our Trust which we make publicly available. We will review the Scheme at regular intervals and monitor how it is operating. It is important to us that this Scheme meets your needs.
The Publication Scheme will help you to find all the information which the Trust publishes. The Freedom of Information Act does not change the right of patients to protection of their patient confidentiality in accordance with Article 8 of the Human Rights Convention, the Data Protection Act and at common law. Maintaining the legal right to patient confidentiality continues to be an important commitment on our part.
To help with this, we have appointed someone who is called a Caldicott Guardian, and who has responsibility to ensure the protection of patient confidentiality throughout the Trust in accordance with your legal rights. Our Caldicott Guardian is:
Mr George Nasmyth - Medical Director
Westmorland General Hospital
Whether or not information is disclosed, there is a duty to confirm whether or not it exists. The main exemptions are:
- Confidential personal information of patients and staff.
- Commercial information, but once this information becomes a matter of public record it will be disclosable.
- Policy advice. Mainly applicable in Westminster.
- Statutory responsibility is enforced by the Information Commissioner via court orders.
Further information about FOI can be obtained from our FOI information leaflet here
How To Make A Freedom Of Information Request
Freedom of information requests should be sent in writing to either;
Westmorland General Hospital
or by email to; firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are unsure of how to format your request a template is available which may be helpful:
Click here to download template
Freedom Of Information Policy
This document outlines the Trust’s responsibilities in respect of the Freedom of Information Act. It details the procedure for dealing with requests, exceptions to the Act and further reading.
Further information can be obtained from;
- The information Commissioner www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk
- The Lord Chancellors department www.dca.gov.uk