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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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 Forest Medical providing medical services under contract to the NHS