Freedom of information

The following policy sets out the Practices approach to the Freedom of Information (FOI] Act 2000.

The practice will:

  • comply with the FOI Act and sees it as an opportunity to enhance public trust and confidence in the practice
  • ensure that there is always one person with overall responsibility for FOI.  Currently this person is Dr Foulds
  • maintain a comprehensive ‘Publication Scheme’ that provides information which is readily accessible without the need for a formal FOI Act request.
  • seek to satisfy all FOI Act requests promptly and within 20 working days.  However, if necessary we will extend this timescale to give full consideration to a public interest test.  If we do not expect to meet the deadline, we will inform the requester as soon as possible of the reasons for the delay and when we expect to have made a decision
  • continue to protect the personal data entrusted to us, by disclosing it only in accordance with the GDPR & Data Protection Act 1998
  • provide advice and assistance to requesters to facilitate their use of FOI Act.  We will publish our procedures and assist requesters to clarify their requests so that they can obtain the information that they require.
  • work with the Clinical Commissioning Group, NHS England, the local Area Team and other bodies with whom we work to ensure that we can meet our FOI Act obligations, including the disclosure of any information that they hold on our behalf.
  • apply the exemptions provided in the FOI Act and, where qualified exemptions exist, the practice will disclose the information unless the balance of public interest lies in withholding it.
  • consult with third parties before disclosing information that could affect their rights and interests.  However, according to the FOI Act, the practice must take the final decision on disclosure
  • charge for information requests in line with the FOI Act fees regulations or other applicable regulations, including the GDPR & Data Protection Act 1998
  • record all FOI Act requests and our responses and will monitor our performance in handling requests and complaints
  • ensure that all staff are aware of their obligations under FOI Act and will include FOI Act education in the induction of all new staff


Guide to information provided by GPs under the model publication scheme


The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) requires all public authorities to adopt and maintain a publication scheme. In 2008 the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) introduced a single generic model publication scheme, for adoption by all public authorities that are subject to FOIA.

The model publication scheme commits a public authority to ‘produce and publish the method by which the specific information will be available so that it can be easily identified and accessed by members of the public’. This is a very general scheme based on the principle that all public authorities need to recognise the public interest in the transparency of the services provided for and paid for by the general public. It is a commitment to make information easily available to the public.

General practitioners (GPs) providing primary medical services under most contracts with the NHS in England and Wales and with HSC Northern Ireland are public authorities in respect of information relating to those services.

Please note that the publication scheme is only for information held as a public authority.

The model publication scheme is available on the ICO website. Further details are available in ICO guidance: Using the definition documents.

The model scheme must be adopted in full, unedited and promoted alongside the guide to information. Public authorities are not required to inform the ICO that they have adopted the scheme; we will assume they have done so unless we hear otherwise.

A public authority is in breach of FOIA if it has not adopted the model scheme or is not publishing in accordance with it.

To assist GPs, we have produced this template guide to information. The template will help them to draw up their guide to information, indicating what information they will provide, how it will be provided and whether any charge will be made for its provision. They should consider expanding elements of it to provide greater explanation and additional information, where this can be done. For example, if there are specific plans for the provision of NHS/HSC services these could be detailed. It is not necessary to submit the guide completed by the practice to the ICO for approval.

This and the model scheme document itself form the basis of the publication scheme commitment by general practitioners.

Information included in the guide to information

The template lists the information that we think GPs hold and should make available within each class. When completed, this will provide a list of all the information the GP will make routinely available, explain how it can be accessed and whether or not a charge will be made for it. GPs must:

  • state how the specific information can be obtained and if there is a cost involved;
  • complete the relevant columns in the template guide; and
  • ensure the public can access the completed guide and the information listed in it.

The guide, like the model scheme document itself, does not need further approval by the Information Commissioner.

GPs should note that they are not expected to routinely publish all information; for example, where they do not hold it or where it is publicly available elsewhere or is exempt. We list such circumstances below.

We would expect GPs to make the information in the guide available unless:

  • they do not hold the information;
  • the information is exempt under one of the FOIA exemptions or Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR) exceptions, or its release is prohibited under another statute;
  • the information is readily and publicly available from an external website; such information may have been provided either by the GP or on their behalf. The GP must provide a direct link to that information;
  • the information is archived, out of date or otherwise inaccessible; or
  • it would be impractical or resource-intensive to prepare the material for routine release.

If the information is only held by another public authority, the GP should provide details of where to obtain it.

For guidance on responding to requests for personal data, please refer to the Subject Access code of practice.

Datasets: publishing datasets for re-use

Public authorities, including GPs, must publish under their publication scheme any dataset they hold that has been requested, together with any updated versions, unless they are satisfied that it is not appropriate to do so. So far as reasonably practicable, they must publish it in an electronic form that is capable of re-use.

If the dataset or any part of it is a relevant copyright work and the public authority is the only owner, the public authority must make it available for re-use under the terms of a specified licence. Datasets in which the Crown owns the copyright or the database rights are not relevant copyright works.

The Datasets Code of Practice recommends that public authorities make datasets available for re-use under the Open Government Licence.

The term ‘dataset’ is defined in section 11(5) of FOIA. The terms ‘relevant copyright work’ and ‘specified licence’ are defined in section 19(8) of FOIA. The ICO has published guidance on the dataset provisions in FOIA. This explains what is meant by “not appropriate” and “capable of re-use”.  One of the reasons why it may not be appropriate to make a dataset available for re-use might be that the information is covered by an exemption under FOIA. GPs do not have to publish in their publication schemes any information that would be exempt from disclosure in response to a FOIA request; eg patient records.

Fees and charging

Information available through a GP’s publication scheme should be readily available at a low cost or at no cost to the public.  If a GP does charge for this information, we expect the charges to be justifiable, clear and kept to a minimum.

Charges may be made for activities such as printing, photocopying and postage as well as information that the GP is legally authorised to charge for.  Anyone requesting information must be informed of any charge before the information is provided.  GPs may ask for payment before providing the information.  Guidance on our website: Charging for information in a publication scheme provides more details.

If the GP charges a fee for licensing the re-use of datasets, they should state in the guide to information how this is calculated and whether the charge is made under the Re-use Fees Regulations or under other legislation.  The GP cannot charge a re-use fee if they make the datasets available for re-use under the Open Government Licence.

FOI requests and the publication scheme

It is important to note that a publication scheme simply sets out the information that is routinely available. Information that is not listed in the guide to information can still be requested and should be made available unless it can be legitimately withheld.

Information available from Three Villages Medical Practice under the Freedom of Information Act model publication scheme

Information covered by this scheme is only about the primary, general or personal medical services we provide under contract to the National Health Service.

This table is from ICO Template guide to information for GPs, Version 2, 20140916.

Information to be publishedHow the information can be obtained(eg hard copy, website)Cost
Class 1 – Who we are and what we do(Organisational information, structures, locations and contacts)  This will be current information only
Doctors in the practice Nil
Contact details for the practice (named contacts where possible with telephone number and email address (if used)) Nil
Opening hours Nil
Other staffing details Nil
Meetings specifically with pharmaceutical companies and other medical suppliers. We would expect as a minimum that this information should include the name of the company, the date and, if appropriate, the name of the member(s) of staff attending (if recorded), together with a general indication of the category of meeting, for example marketing or promotion. The names of staff attending should include any senior managers and any medically qualified staff if this information is recorded. None held
Class 2 – What we spend and how we spend it(Financial information relating to projected and actual income and expenditure, procurement, contracts and financial audit) Current and previous financial year as a minimum
Details on NHS/HSC funding received by the practice. Not held
Audit of NHS/HSC incomeNot held
Details of expenditure items over £10,000 – published at least annually but at a more frequent quarterly or six-monthly interval where practical.Not held
List and value of contracts awarded by the practice. We would normally only expect the practice to publish details of contracts that are of sufficient size to have gone through a formal tendering process.Not held
Staff allowances and expenses that can be incurred or claimed, with totals paid to senior staff members (for the purpose of this document, senior staff are defined as partners or equivalent level), by references to categories. Nil
Pay policyNot held
Declaration of GPs’ NHS/HSC income.The information made available as part of GPs’ contractual obligation to publish their net income relating to NHS/HSC contracts, once this obligation is in force. A link may be provided to the information on a third party website, and /or a description of where this information is available.Not held
Class 3 – What our priorities are and how we are doing(Strategies and plans, performance indicators, audits, inspections and reviews) Current and previous year as a minimum 
Plans for the development and provision of NHS/HSC servicesNot held
Performance data including performance against targetsNot held
Inspection reports by regulators: the CQC, HIW, RQIA and HSCB and any other regulators. Nil
Class 4 – How we make decisions(Decision making processes and records of decisions) Current and previous year as a minimum
Records of decisions made in the practice affecting the provision of NHS/HSC services. Not held
Class 5 – Our policies and procedures(Current written protocols, policies and procedures for delivering our services and responsibilities) Current information only. Here we have listed the policies we would expect practices to have. Any additional policies should also be listed.Mark “not held” against any policies that are not actually held.
Policies and procedures about customer serviceAvailable on request to Practice Manager
Internal instructions to staff and policies relating to the delivery of servicesAvailable on request to Practice Manager
Policies and procedures about the recruitment and employment of staffAvailable on request to Practice Manager
Equality and diversity policyAvailable on request to Practice Manager
Health and safety policyAvailable on request to Practice Manager
Complaints procedures (including those covering requests for information and operating the publication scheme)Available on request to Practice Manager
Records management policies (records retention, destruction and archive)Available on request to Practice Manager
Data protection policiesAvailable on request to Practice Manager
Policies and procedures for handling requests for information Available on request to Practice Manager
Class 6 – Lists and RegistersCurrently maintained lists and registers only 
We recognise that it is unlikely that GPs are going to have registers available for public inspection and while this remains the case “none held” can be entered in this section.None held
Any publicly available register or list (if any are held this should be publicised; in most circumstances existing access provisions will suffice).None held
Class 7 – The services we offer(Information about the services we offer, including leaflets, guidance and newsletters produced for the public) Current information only
The services provided under contract to the NHS/HSC Nil
Charges for any of these services Nil
Information leaflets Nil
Out of hours arrangements Nil