FOI – making a request for information

Who can request information?

Anyone, anywhere in the world can make a FOI request to the Department of Health, regardless of age.

 What can I request?

Any recorded information that you think the Department of Health may hold.

If the information you seek is environmental then we will respond according to the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR). You don’t have to know whether the information you want is covered by the EIR or the FOI Act. When you make a request, we will decide which law applies.

If the information you seek is your own personal data or information about yourself then you should make a subject access request under the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), and not under the FOI Act.

Please see our guidance about how to make a subject access request under the DPA:

Data protection in DH

Before you request information from the Department

The Department of Health and its Arm’s Length Bodies publish a large amount of information relating to health and social care in England. Before submitting a request for information, you should see if the information that you are seeking is already published. If you request information from the Department that is already published, then we will simply refer you to the published source.

FOI: How to find information that is already available

How do I request information?

Your request must be in writing and can be either posted, faxed or emailed to the Department.

For postal requests please send to the following address:

Ministerial Correspondence and Public Enquiries
Department of Health
Richmond House
79 Whitehall
London SW1A 2NS

Please send fax requests to: 020 7210 5952

For email requests please use our contact form below. Please write “Freedom of Information” in the subject line:

Web contact form (opens new window)

What information must I include in my request?

The FOI Act requires certain information to be supplied before the Department 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. We will endeavour to meet your preferences but cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

 What you don’t need to do:

  • explicitly mention the FOI Act, although it may help to do so;
  • know whether the information is covered by the FOI Act or the Environmental Information Regulations as we will decide this;
  • say why you want the information; or
  • specify particular documents. You have a right to information, however it is recorded.

 How should I word my request?

Comprehensive guidance on submitting effective requests for information is available from the Information Commissioner’s Office. The do’s and don’ts below should help to guide you in framing an effective request that will get you the information that you want from the Department of Health.

Do’s:

  • do clearly identify the information you want. If it is not clear what you  are requesting we may need to seek further clarification;
  • do be as specific as possible. If your request is too general it may be refused on the grounds that replying to it will exceed the cost limit laid down in the Fees Regulations, which is equivalent to one person working for 3 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;
  • do ask questions such as “what” or “how much” as this is much more likely to result in a useful response;
  • do use straightforward, polite language.

Don’ts:

  • don’t use open-ended questions such as “why”.  We do not have to answer your question if this would mean creating new information or giving an opinion or judgement that is not already recorded;
  • don’t base your request on assumptions or opinions;
  • don’t mix your request with complaints or comments.

What happens when my request is received?

The Department has a legal obligation to reply to your FOI request and must do so within 20 working days of receipt.

We will do one of the following:

  • supply you with the information you requested;
  • inform you that we don’t hold the information and, if we are able, advise you who does;
  • inform you that your request will exceed the cost limit specified in the Fees Regulations and invite you to submit a further narrower request;
  • inform you that we hold the information requested but refuse to provide all or part of it and explain why – this will involve citing one or more of the exemptions from the FOI Act;
  • inform you that we are refusing your request on the basis it is repeated or vexatious; or
  • inform you that we need more time 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’m unhappy with the reply I receive or the way in which my request was handled?

You can complain.

Your first point of complaint is the Department itself. You will need to ask for an internal review of your FOI request.

If, after an internal review, you are still not satisfied you can then complain to the Information Commissioner (ICO).

Full details of how to complain to the Department 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.

Further information about this process is also available on our website at:

Freedom of Information complaints process

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