Freedom of Information - FAQs

Who can request information?

Anyone, anywhere in the world, can make a FOI request.

What can I request?

You can seek any recorded information that you think a public body may hold. If the request is for environmental information, we will respond according to the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) 2004.

Do I need to quote the Act?

While it may be useful to do so, you do not need to quote the Act.

Can I request information about me?

Yes, but if the information is your own personal data, then you can make a subject access request under the Data Protection Act 1998, and do not need to use the FOI Act.

How do I request information?

Your request must be in writing and can be either posted or emailed to the relevant public authority.

What information must I include in my request?

The Act requires certain information to be supplied before a public authority can respond to your request:

  • your real name - we do not have to respond to requests submitted under a pseudonym;
  • your address (email addresses are acceptable);
  • a description of the information you wish to obtain; and
  • any preferences for the format in which you wish to receive the information e.g. electronic or hard copy.

How should I word my request?

Comprehensive guidance on submitting effective requests for information is available from the Information Commissioner's Office.

Writing a comprehensive request

  • Clearly identify the information you want including any date ranges or timescales. If it is not clear what you are requesting, we may need to seek further clarification;
  • Be as specific as possible. If your request is too general, it may be refused on the grounds that replying would exceed the cost limit laid down in the Fees Regulations, which is equivalent to one person working for three and a half days. If this happens, we will ask you to re-submit a narrower more specific request which could be met within the cost limits and give you advice and assistance to do so;
  • Use straightforward, polite language.

What happens when my request is received?

All NHS Wales Health Boards and Trusts together with the general practitioners, dentists, pharmacists and opticians providing NHS services will have a mechanism in place to respond to requests, and to decide whether the requested information should be released, or whether any exemptions may apply to the request.

There is a legal obligation to reply to your FOI request and this must be done within 20 working days following receipt. One of the following will be done:

  • The information you requested will be supplied;
  • You'll be informed that the information is not held and, if possible, advised of who does;
  • You'll be informed that your request will exceed the cost limit specified in the Fees Regulations and you'll be invited you to submit a narrower request;
  • You'll be informed that the information requested is held but all or part of it won't be provided. You'll get an explanation why, citing one or more of the exemptions from the FOI Act;
  • You'll be informed that your request is refused on the basis it is repeated or vexatious; or
  • You'll be informed that more time is needed to consider the public interest test in relation to your request and let you know when to expect a further response. This should not be later than 40 working days after receipt of your request.

What can I do if I am unhappy with the reply I receive or the way my request was handled?

You can ask a public body for an internal review of your FOI request. When you write to us requesting an internal review, we will acknowledge your letter and tell you how long we think the review will take. We aim to complete internal reviews within 20 working days, although more cases that are complex may take longer. Where internal reviews go over 20 working days, we will keep you informed of progress.

If, after an internal review, you are still not satisfied you can then complain to the Information Commissioner (ICO). Details of how to do this are available at the ICO website.

Full details of how to ask a public authority for an internal review will be included in our initial reply to your FOI request. Details of how to complain further to the Information Commissioner will be included in our response to your internal review request.