Freedom of information and Data Protection

Here you can find out about the Freedom of Information Act and the Data Protection Act, how to make a request for information, and how we will deal with your request.

Freedom of Information

The Freedom  of Information (FOI) Act 2000 gives you the right to access information held by  public organisations in the UK, including the Parliamentary and Health Service  Ombudsman.

We are open and accountable in our work and take our freedom of information  responsibilities seriously. We welcome the rights of access set out in the  Freedom of Information Act and publish a wide range of material about our  activities and on subjects in which there is known to be a public interest.
For more information see our Publication Scheme.

How do I make a request?

If you can’t find the information about us that you are looking for on our  website, you can ask us for it by emailing us at:
foiofficer@ombudsman.org.uk

Or write to us at

Freedom of Information and Data Protection Team
Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
Millbank Tower
Millbank
London SW1P 4QP

When making your request, please include the following details:

  • your name and address (an email address will do),
  • the information or documents you want to look at, and
  • any preferences you have for the way you would like us to  send the information to you (for example, hard copy or by email).

What happens after I make my request?

We aim to send you a reply as soon as possible and by the latest within 20  working days.
We will either:

  • give you the information you’ve asked for,
  • let you know where you can find the information,
  • confirm that we don’t hold the information, or
  • explain why we cannot give you the information.

Will I get the information I’m looking for?

Usually we will be able to provide you with the information you  request.  However, the Freedom of  Information Act does contain a number of exemptions that allow public organisations  to withhold certain types of information, such as personal data or sensitive  commercial information, because the release of that information would be likely  to cause harm or prejudice. As a publicly funded organisation, we are also able  to turn down a request if, for example, it would be too costly for us to  respond to because of the time it would take us to gather the information  requested. We are also generally unable to provide information gathered during  our investigations to the general public under Freedom of Information. 

If we cannot give you the information you are looking for, we will write to  you explaining why.  We will also let you  know what to do next if you disagree with our decision.

Is there a fee?

No, requests under the Freedom of Information Act are free of charge. However,  we may ask you to narrow the scope of your request if it would cost us more  than £450 to respond.

More information

If you want to know more about Freedom of Information, go to the  Information Commissioner’s website at www.ico.gov.uk

Data  Protection

The  Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) allows you to access information that any organisation  holds about you, including the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. We  are committed to keeping the information that we hold about complaints,  including personal and sensitive information, safe and to process it fairly and  lawfully. 

Subject access requests: How do  I make a request for information that you hold about me?

  If you would like to receive information that we hold about you or your  complaint, you can ask us for it by emailing us at

foiofficer@ombudsman.org.uk

Or write to us at:

Freedom of Information and Data Protection Team
Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
Millbank Tower
Millbank
London SW1P 4QP

When making your request, please include the following details:

  • your name and postal address, and
  • the type of information or documents you want to look at.  For example, you might ask to receive copies of notes of our telephone  conversations with you or a case history setting out the progression of your  complaint.

When will I hear from you  about my request?

  We aim to send you a reply as soon as possible and by the latest within 40  working days.

Will I receive everything you hold  about me?

If you  make a request to us for your personal information, we will give you as much as  we are able to.  We are committed to  transparency and accountability and want to provide you with as much  information as possible, so that you can understand our processes and  decisions.

The  legislation that gives us our powers (the Health Service Commissioners Act 1993  and the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967) says that all investigations must  be carried out in private. We will not usually be able to provide you with all  the information that we have gathered during the course of our investigation of your complaint. 

The Data Protection Act also contains a number of other  exemptions that allow certain types of information to be withheld (such as the  personal data of other people, or legal advice), because the release of that  information would be likely to cause harm or affect our ability to do our work.  For example, we would never be able to provide you with detailed information  about someone else’s complaint to us. Also, if we have gathered information  about your complaint that was not relevant to our decision, we may not be able  to release this to you. This is because of restrictions set out by the law that  give us our powers.

What if I want to get copies of  my medical records?

If you  would like copies of your medical records, the easiest way is to ask your GP  practice, optician, dentist or hospital for them. Hospital records are usually  accessed by writing to the hospital trust’s health records manager or patient  services manager. The records that we hold may not be complete.

More information

If you want to know more about your rights of access, please see the Information  Commissioner’s website at www.ico.gov.uk