Justice CommitteeWritten evidence from Frimley Park Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

RESPONSE TO JUSTICE COMMITTEE REVIEW INTO FOI ACT 2000

Question

Response

Does the Freedom of Information Act work effectively?

No, the fact that an individual is able to request any information from an organisation has resulted in companies compiling spread sheets (see Annex 1, 2 and 3) and demanding that these are completed by the organisation under FOI. In all cases, the information being requested is held in numerous places and has to be pulled together and extracted in order to respond to the request. This feels as though we are creating information to respond to the request rather than providing information already held.
The act should be more heavily focussed on providing copies of information already created/compiled rather than extraction and collation of information to respond to each request. It would also be of particular use to provide clear guidance to public authorities on exactly how far an organisation is required to go in relation to creating new documents from information held in relation to FOI requests.

The FOIA does not work effectively for an organisation where it is expected to spend up to 18 hours responding to each request, particularly when up to 300 requests are received per year. This is a massive strain on resources.
Not being able to confirm the identity of the individual prohibits the ability to correctly apply the public interest test.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Freedom of Information Act?

Weakness
1. Cannot confirm the identity of the person requesting the information, nor what they wish to do with the information. An organisation would like to know where its information is going and who has access to it, rather than find out from the local news or national news. Difficult to collate similar requests from the same person as you are unable to confirm the identity of the requestor. (Attached 5 emails).
2. Inability to charge for requests—take into account the resources and effort an organisation has to put in to process requests for information. The ability to charge for request for information would prevent one individual emailing over 400 organisations at the same time (Round Robins) as well as ensuring individuals who genuinely want information are able to obtain it.
3. Used to by-pass other processes (eg legal procedures, complaints, courts, staff disciplinary, etc.). Specifically there have been instances of private investigators requesting information from NHS organisations about patients who have died without a next of kin and requests from Police in relation to criminal investigations.
4. Not being able to include time taken to redact and copy information when assessing whether a request will exceed the appropriate limit (18 hours) eg copies of Trust board meeting minutes and all supporting papers—12 months—25 papers each meeting (Request 207).
5. Used by journalists and MP’s to produce negative stories about organisations.
6. Information provided to requesters is often taken out of context in order to make headlines in papers.

Strengths
It does holds the organisation to account.
Makes an organisation respond to requests for information when in the past.
Enables individuals to know how an organisation operates.

Is the Freedom of Information Act operating in the way that it was intended to?

No, the act is being regularly used by private companies to obtain information about competitors, to tout for business, to contact organisations for direct marketing, used by journalists to find newsworthy stories, used by MP’s to obtain information to support election campaigns.
Example request:
How many complaints has your organisation received from either your employees or members of the public about “haunted” buildings, ghosts or other paranormal phenomena in your premises or in buildings managed by you? Please break down complaints by year.
1. What action was taken to address these complaints?
2. How much did this action cost. Please provide the amount spent for each action.

February 2012

Annex 1

E-HEALTH MEDIA

FOI Questions

What manufacturers centralised storage do you use?

What percentage of your Servers are virtualised?

What is the total amount of storage you have and its percentage utilisation?

What server virtualisation projects have been identified within the next 12 months?

What software is used to backup your virtual infrastructure?

Have you implemented data de-duplication? If yes which vendors solutions do you use?

What Antivirus software do you currently use?

When is this due for renewal (month & year)?

What Email system do you have installed?

Do you archive email or data? If yes which product do you use?

Do you use hierarchical storage management? If yes which manufacturers?

What amount of storage does your email consume?

Do you Virtualise Applications? If yes which Vendor solutions do you use?

Do you provide Virtualised Desktops? If yes which Vendor solutions do you use?

Are you considering desktop virtualisation? If yes over what time frame?

What desktop\application virtualisation projects have been identified within the next 12 months?

Do you electronically audit your PCs for installed software? If yes what application do you use?

Do you use a third party company to manage your Software Licenses? If yes who?

Do you reconcile your installed software and licenses owned? If yes how frequently?

What is version of Microsoft Windows is your standard and how many Windows devices do you manage?

How do intend to procure Microsoft licenses now the centralised NHS enterprise agreement has ended? (Select, Enterprise Agreement etc)

If you already hold a Microsoft License agreement, when is this due for renewal?

Do you have plans to adopt Windows 7 in the next 12 months?

If yes, how are you looking to deploy Windows 7?

Are you considering hosting your servers externally as part of a Private Cloud infrastructure?

Who, including name, job title and contact details, is responsible for IT Procurement Contracts relating to IT Infrastructure?

What IT functions do you have outsourced and to whom?

If you have Oracle licenses, when was the last time they were audited and by whom?

Please identify what IT related projects you have scheduled for the next 12 months?

Annex 2

NETSI PLUS

Annex 3

KABLE DIRECT

Prepared 25th July 2012