Are GPs covered by the Act?
GPs, dentists and other health practitioners only have to provide information about their NHS work; any work done in a private capacity is not covered by the Act.
Who can make a request?
Anyone can make a freedom of information request – they do not have to be UK citizens, or resident in the UK. Freedom of information requests can also be made by organisations, for example a newspaper, a campaign group, or a company. Employees of a public authority can make requests to their own employer, although good internal communications and staff relations will normally avoid the need for this.
Requesters should direct their requests for information to the public authority they think will hold the information. The public authority that receives the request is responsible for responding.
What are the principles behind the Freedom of Information Act?
The main principle behind freedom of information legislation is that people have a right to know about the activities of public authorities, unless there is a good reason for them not to. This is sometimes described as a presumption or assumption in favour of disclosure. The Act is also sometimes described as purpose and applicant blind.
This means that
- Everybody has a right to access official information. Disclosure of information should be the default – in other words, information should be kept private only when there is a good reason and it is permitted by the Act.
- An applicant (requester) does not need to give you a reason for wanting the information. On the contrary, you must justify refusing them information.
- You must treat all requests for information equally, except under some circumstances relating to vexatious requests and personal data (see When can we refuse a request? for details on these). The information someone can get under the Act should not be affected by who they are. You should treat all requesters equally, whether they are journalists, local residents, public authority employees, or foreign researchers.
- Because you should treat all requesters equally, you should only disclose information under the Act if you would disclose it to anyone else who asked. In other words, you should consider any information you release under the Act as if it were being released to the world at large.
This does not prevent you voluntarily giving information to certain people outside the provisions of the Act.
All public bodies subject to FOI need to produce a Publication Scheme.
Guidance on how to do this can be found on the Information Commissioner's website.